Page last updated at 00:15 GMT, Sunday, 22 November 2009

Ride-on lawnmowers 'injure thousands every year'

Ride-on mower
Slow and steady is the safest way to mow, say experts

Using a ride-on mower to cut the grass might save energy but they land thousands of people in hospital every year, experts have warned.

Over five years some 66,000 Americans ended up in emergency departments with injuries caused by lawn tractors, reports the Journal of Safety Research.

While many suffered bruises or sprains, some of the injured suffered broken bones and amputations. Six people died.

Most cases resulted from moving mowers or machines flipping over.

Flying debris

Nearly 100 of the injured were run over by a mower - some were children who had been sitting on the driver's lap and had fallen off.

Men made up the bulk of casualties, and most were aged 40 or older.

We regularly see patients coming into A&E with a number of injuries as a result of gardening activities
John Heyworth, president of the College of Emergency Medicine

Many were hit by objects or flying debris, or sustained injuries while unloading the mower or servicing it.

Best estimates for the UK suggest around 6,500 are hurt every year by lawnmowers, either hand-pushed or ride-ons.

In the past 12 months, 530 people had to be admitted for hospital treatment in England alone.

Former Norwich City football manager Bryan Hamilton needed surgery to save his foot after it became entangled in the blades of his ride-on mower.

His toes were broken and dislocated and tendons and arteries were torn when the blades sliced through the sole of his foot as he tried to jump off the falling mower.

It took two operations by consultant plastic surgeon Elaine Sassoon and her team at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for Mr Hamilton to make a recovery.

Play it safe

John Heyworth, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, said people should be cautious when gardening.

"We all need to be careful. The risk of getting injured is low but we are not completely risk free. We regularly see patients coming into A&E with a number of injuries as a result of gardening activities.

"Some have run over their feet with the lawnmower and others have badly cut their fingers on the blades."

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) said electric mowers and other power tools should always be used with an RCD - residual current device - which would cut off the power quickly in the event of an accident.

And maintenance must never be carried out while the mower is plugged in.

It is also best not to have children around when cutting the grass and to wear strong shoes and trousers rather than shorts and sandals when mowing.

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