April 9, 2010
Lawn mowers are machines that cut grass through the use of a rotating blade. The two primary types of lawn mowers, reel and rotary, are differentiated by the angle of their blade’s rotation. Reel mowers have blades that rotate on a horizontal axis and are either engine operated, pulled behind a tractor or run strictly on the power of the user. Rotary mower blades rotate on a vertical axis through high speed engine power and are easier to operate. Most residential lawns are maintained using rotary mowers.
Rotary mowers, the more technologically advanced type of grass cutting machines, are powered in multiple ways:
- Gasoline: The majority of mowers used today are powered using two-stroke or four-stroke cycle, liquid fuel, internal combustion engines. An alternative to walk-behind push mowers, riding mowers are very popular for larger lawns. The riding mower provides a seat and an automobile-like control system for the driver to ride upon, steer and maneuver vast spaces of grass.
- Corded Electric: Easier to use on small lawns due to the limited distance of cord reach, these electric mowers simply plug into an available power outlet.
- Battery: Using 12-volt rechargeable batteries, these lawn mowers offer great maneuverability similar to gasoline-operated versions, but are clean-running like electrics.
- Hover: Powered through a turbine above spinning blades that drive air downward and create a hover effect that lifts the mower off the ground, hover mowers run on electricity. They are not as effective as other varieties of lawn mowing machines.
- Robotic: Almost eliminating the need for human interaction in lawn maintenance, robotic mowers operate on rechargeable battery power and mow up to five acres of lawn space defined by a border wire.
Lawn Mower Defects
The biggest concerns associated with lawn mower use include:
- Projectile injury: Mowers can throw debris at high speed. That debris may originate from the environment or from a broken part or component of the mower itself.
- Blade injury: Feet are the most affected body part, as mower blades are backed over or propelled onto feet during use.
- Finger amputation and lacerations of hands: During repair or cleaning of mowers, many hand and finger injuries occur.
- Pollutant inhalation: According to a 2001 study, many mowers emit as much carbon monoxide pollution per hour as a 1992 model automobile does when driven for 650 miles. The EPA is requiring emissions reduction by at least 35 percent as of 2011, because of this high health risk.
- Hearing loss: Mower usage may result in hearing loss due to their significant production of noise.
Lawn Mower Recalls
- A brand known as Snapper sold 2,200 walk-behind mowers in 2002 without effective side-discharge deflectors, increasing the risk of injury due to expelled projections during standard lawn use.
- In 1980, eight consumers complained to Black & Decker about the spontaneous ignition of their Black & Decker battery-powered lawn mowers when the mowers were not in operation. In fact, the fires occurred when the mowers were sitting latent in storage.
- Black & Decker recalled 140,000 cordless electric lawn mowers in 2002 after 11 reports of overheating of electrical components, resulting in burns and nine reports of property damage.
- In 2008, Kyodo America recalled 530 LawnBot mowers due to the risk of laceration. One consumer reported injury after picking up the LawnBot self-propelled mowing machine and receiving lacerations from the moving blade. A second risk listed by Kyodo is the potential for the LawnBot to run over a foot and cause lacerations or amputation.
- In 1993, 160,000 Lawn Boy mowers were recalled due to splitting and leaking gas tanks that posed a risk of fire. Fires without injuries were reported as of the recall date.
Each year 80,000 Americans require hospital treatment for lawn mower accidents. The majority of those accidents are associated with children under the age of 15 and adults over the age of 60. The most common injuries are strikes by debris that is picked up and thrown by the mower’s spinning blades.
According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System’s statistics, 663,000 Americans were seen in emergency rooms for injuries sustained while using lawn mowers from 1996 to 2004. This means that approximately two of every 1,000 emergency room visits results from injuries sustained during lawn mower accidents, which amounts to approximately half the number of annual firearm-related injuries. The most common injury aside from projectile damage is that of a fractured foot.