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Lawn mower-related injuries Published: ()

Mowing the lawn is a routine, three season outdoor task for many people in Canada. Despite safety recommendations and the availability of protective clothing and equipment, lawn mower-related injuries still happen to people of all ages.

The Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP) is an injury and poisoning surveillance system currently operating in the emergency departments of 11 paediatric and 7 general hospitals across Canada. The numbers below are taken from an analysis of CHIRPP’s electronic database (eCHIRPP).

An extract of the eCHIRPP database was searched for records of unintentional lawn mower-related injuries which happened on or after April 1, 2011. These included incidents where patients’ description of what went wrong contained the following key words and phrases: lawnmower, lawn mower, mowing, cutting grass, cutting the grass or cutting the lawn. The French key words and phrases were searched as well. The eCHIRPP database was also searched for records with direct cause or factor codes for unpowered, powered walk-behind or ride-on lawn mowers, and lawn mowers that were not specifically classified as powered or unpowered.

How many cases were there?

Between April 2011 and June 2018, there were 512 unintentional injury cases related to lawn mowers (57.0 cases/ 100,000 eCHIRPP records). More than half (54%) of the cases were reported at two of the general hospitals reporting to CHIRPP.

Children and youth vs. adults

Lawn mower-related injuries were more common among adults than children and youth, and most common among people aged 50 to 64 years (Figure 1).

Males vs. females

Overall, 75.7% of the people injured were male.

How did the injuries happen?

The most common circumstance of injury among all ages was the operator cutting their hand or foot (including traumatic amputation) under a mower that was turned on (Table 1). When looking at children aged 14 years and under the most common circumstance was getting burned from touching the hot motor or exhaust, at nearly a third of cases in that age group (Table 2).

Top 3 most common injuries

Up to three specific injuries for each case can be reported in CHIRPP, with the first being the most serious. Among the most serious, specific injuries reported, the top three most common were:

  • Open wounds including minor cuts and lacerations (29.4%)
  • Fractures (13.5%)
  • Traumatic amputations, including partial amputation (11.3%), and Burn or corrosion (11.3%)

Nearly all traumatic amputations (and partial) were to fingers, toes, or feet, with the exception of fewer than five cases involving the hands or lower leg (including when more than one amputation was reported).

Which body parts were injured?

Up to three specific body parts for each case can be reported in CHIRPP, corresponding with types of injuries reported. Among the most serious injuries reported, the top three most common body parts injured were:

  • Finger, hand (30.4%)
  • Toes, foot, ankle (18.3%)
  • Head, face (including eyes), neck (16.8%)

What level of in-hospital treatment was needed?

Overall, 71.6% of patients received medical treatment in the emergency department, while another 14.6% of patients had injuries serious enough to be admitted to hospital for treatment. The remaining patients with less serious injuries either left without being seen by a physician, were under observation only, received advice in the emergency department about their injuries, or were admitted for a reason other than injury treatment. No fatalities were reported.

Was any special safety equipment or protective clothing being used?

The use of safety equipment was reported in 11.7% of cases, while another 68.6% of cases reported no use of safety equipment or protective clothing. It was unknown in the remaining 19.7% of cases. Up to five safety equipment items may be reported for each case. More than half (50.5%) of the safety equipment reported was protective boots or clothing, and another third (32.2%) was protective eyewear.

Dive into the Data

Figure 1. Frequency distribution of injury cases related to lawn mowers, by age group, per 100,000 records*, eCHIRPP, 2011 to 2018

*Counts per 100,000 records are normalized to all eCHIRPP cases in each age to account for the uneven age distribution in the eCHIRPP database, given that there are more paediatric than general hospitals reporting to CHIRPP. Note that 369 cases in the eCHIRPP database had missing age group information.

Table 1. Circumstances of lawn mower-related injury cases among all ages, eCHIRPP, 2011 to 2018

*Other includes struck by a motor vehicle, flame or electrical burn, fainting, or playing with a stationary mower.

Table 2. Circumstances of lawn mower-related injury cases among children and youth aged 14 and under, eCHIRPP, 2011 to 2018

*Other includes: Cut/struck by component other than blades, or cut not further specified; playing with a stationary mower; fell off/ejected from a riding mower (including when overturned); injured while repairing/maintaining mower that was off; struck an obstacle (e.g., hit branch, stepped on rusty nail); lost footing/fell while operating mower; sprain/strain/awkward movement while operating mower; injured while moving/loading or unloading mower; boarding/alighting mower; flame or electrical burn.

Take Note

The injuries described here do not represent all lawn mower-related injuries in Canada because CHIRPP collects data at only a sample of hospitals in Canada. In addition to older teen and adults, Aboriginal persons and people who live in rural areas are also under-represented in the eCHIRPP database, because most CHIRPP sites are paediatric hospitals located in major cities. Fatal injuries are also under-represented in the eCHIRPP database because the emergency department data do not capture people who died before they could be taken to hospital or those who died after being admitted via another department. Because of the dynamic nature of eCHIRPP, information is still being entered into the database, so some years do not yet have complete data.

Learn more about safety around gardening tools and equipment.

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