A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Keven Moore: Robotic equipment could save the day by lowering risk of lawn mower accidents

Summer time is almost here and an estimated 54 million Americans will be mowing their lawns as we all try to keep up with the spring rains. Mowing the lawn is a summer-time ritual and a rite of passage for many teenagers and as the school year draws to a close many will take on this proverbial family chore.

Despite all the new safety feature that have been added to lawn mowers since my childhood, today nearly 80,000 people visit the emergency room annually as a result of lawn mowing accidents, and approximately 1,400 require hospitalization, and another 95 people are killed annually according to an article in Claims Management.

Robot Mower.org

According to statistics compiled by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 17,000 children or teens required medical attention in that year due to lawnmower injuries. According to stats.com, the likelihood of being involved in a lawnmower accident if you are a man is 1 in 2,626 and if you are a woman 1 in 7,248, proving another reason why women longer than men.

At an early age I watched my father mow the grass just wanting to mow the yard, but my father would always keep me at a safe distance.

Then one day at the age of 7 while he was at work and wanting to make some money to buy my mother a Mother’s Day gift from a nearby garage sale, I rolled my father’s mower up the street to a little old ladies house and asked her if I could mow her lawn for $2.

Realizing what a bargain this was she quickly said yes, but with a raised eyebrow she inquired about my age. Not wanting to lose the opportunity I told her that I was 11, but would need some help starting the mower after making up some excuse. After starting the mower she realized that I obviously didn’t know what I was doing as I went zigzagging all across her lawn in every direction and fired me right on the spot. She still paid me so that I can go buy that Mother’s Day vase.

Most people can’t claim to have been fired from a job at the age of 7, but I never gave up hope and years later like most teenagers, the lawn mower became viable and profitable source for income; but little did I realize how dangerous those machines really were.

Back then we didn’t wear any safety glasses and lawnmowers didn’t come equipped with dead-man switches, safety shields and multiple warning labels– but somehow we survived and most of us still have all of our digits still intact.

Robotic Mower John Deer

Today if you don’t outsource your lawn care, depending on where you live in the U.S., you may mow your lawn 30 or more times over the course of a year. Most people forget that every time you start your mower, you are dealing with a dangerous and potentially deadly piece of equipment filled with flammable gas with rotating blade whirling at 3,000 revolutions per minute that produces three times the kinetic energy of a .357 handgun.

Even some 40 years later, the leading cause of push mower accidents is still contact with its rotating blades. Amputations to fingers, hands and feet are still the most severe and most frequent type of injury, but another cause of accidents is from being struck by a thrown object, such as small stones by the blade.

Riding mower share the exact same exposures, but they also come with a deadly risk of death or injury from roll-over incidents on hillsides or a back-over accident involving a small child.

According to the Amputee Coalition more than 600 children undergo mower-related amputations each year. Compared to airbags and the automated collision avoidance systems of some car and trucks, a lawn mower’s safety systems are still rather crude, resulting in thousands of unnecessary injuries and fatalities annually.

But hope is on the way.

Today robotic mowers are now available on the market for as little as $2K and these autonomous machines will soon be taking over our lawn care needs. Robotic lawn mowers is starting to become the second largest category of domestic robots used behind robotic vacuum cleaners; and projected rapid sales growth is expended to climb throughout the rest of this decade.

A typical robotic lawn mower requires the user to set up a border low voltage electrical wire around the lawn that defines the area to be mowed. The robot then uses this wire to locate the boundary of the area to be trimmed and in some cases to locate a recharging dock.

Larger robotic mowers today are now capable of maintaining 5-7 acres of lawn and the more advanced models can even monitor how fast or slow your grass is growing, and then modifies its schedule accordingly. These robotic mowers are equipped with whisper quiet motors that can barely be heard when standing within 12-25 feet while it’s running.

Robotic lawn mowers are becoming increasingly sophisticated relying on batteries instead of gasoline helping to reduce our individual carbon footprint.

These mowers are self-docking and some contain rain sensors, anti-theft devices, but if you are still worried about your envious covetous neighbor stealing it, you can even have a GPS locator placed on the device as well.

With the emergence of smart phones some robotic mowers have integrated features within custom apps to adjust settings or scheduled mowing times and frequency, as well as manually control the mower with a digital joystick.

Robotic Mower -bigmow pics from Their Website

In my profession the first order to eliminate risk is to remove the risk and if you cannot successfully do that then you try to engineer out the source for the risk. The fact that robotic mowers eliminate human interaction by mows by itself without the presence of the operator, this will make it the safest way to mow.

The state-of-the-art proximity detection technology that is equipped on these robotic mowers is like a proximity force field around the mower that stops the blades in a fraction of a second if anything gets too close.

They are also equipped with a built-in safety feature means the blade will automatically stop if the mower is lifted up or turned over.

These units can handle yards with steep hillsides up to a 25-28 degree pitch, which eliminates the risk for a rollover accident from your standard type riding lawn mower.

Grass clippings or anything else is not discharged out the side or back of a mower, but instead these units mulch the grass into miniature clips which fertilizes your back and avoids the potential of knocking out your pet from a thrown rock.

Speaking of pets, they usually respect the robotic lawnmower and will give it space to operate after the initial curiosity wears off. However, many of these robotic mowers are equipped with sensors which means that it reverses and chooses another direction if it runs into ‘objects’ such as pets.

But what is even more amazing about these little technologically advanced robots is that it they can even avert an early morning violent crime in your neighborhood.

That’s right folks, the best way to treat a lawn mower-related injury to your neighbor who happens to be mowing their grass at 7 a.m., is to loan him your robotic mower so that you can comfortably keep sleeping in on the weekends.

Be Safe My Friends.

(This column was originally published on May 19, 2016)


Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both the Lexington and Northern Kentucky offices. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.

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