Snow Blower and Lawn Mower Attacks

Blog by Dr. Phillip Chang MD:  Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at Aesthetica with Offices in Loudoun and Fairfax Virginia

The snow is falling outside. Over the last week there has been over 40 inches and in the last month there has been over 50 inches. Every spring and summer, I have the unfortunate job of treating dozens of patients who are injured in lawn mower accident. Every winter, I have the unfortunate job of treating dozens of patients who are injured in snowblower accidents. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports up to 200,000 people - 16,000 of them children - are injured in snowblower and lawn mower-related accidents each year. As a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, I am often called upon to reconstruct and make presentable and functional, mangled fingers and limbs. As many of my patients know, we are in the midst of potentially the highest snowfall in Washington history. The record is 54 inches and we have so far had 52 inches ... and it is still snowing outside.

This week alone, I have had to treat 5 patients with mangled fingers from putting their hand in the snow blower.  For the most part, these are smart men and women, some are even professional landscapers.  They simply aren't thinking when they stick their hands into a snowblower or lawnmower to unclog the snow or grass. Most people don't realize that a snowblower may seem to be off because it is clogged; they then reach their hands in the machine and its spring loaded blades spring back when it is unclogged. And the fact that many of my patients turn out to be children makes this an issue I am especially concerned about. Understandably, most injuries such as severed fingers and toes, amputations, broken bones, burns and eye injuries are caused by careless use and can be prevented by following a few simple safety. The American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM), American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons (ASMS), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) have teamed up to prevent injuries and educate adults, parents, and children about the importance of lawn mower safety during National Safety Month, June 2009.  They should have a similar conference on snow blower accidents.  Their conclusions were as follows.

  1. Children should be at least 12-years-old before they operate any lawn mower, and at least 16 years old for a ride-on mower.
  2. Children should never be passengers on ride-on mowers.
  3. Always wear sturdy shoes while mowing - not sandals.
  4. Young children should be at a safe distance from the area you are mowing.
  5. Pick up stones, toys and debris from the lawn to prevent injuries from flying objects.
  6. Always wear eye and hearing protection.
  7. Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released.
  8. Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary - carefully look for others behind you when you do.
  9. Start and refuel mowers outdoors - not in a garage. Refuel with the motor turned off and cool.
  10. Blade settings should be set by an adult only.
  11. Wait for blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel roads. (As a safety feature, some newer models have a blade/brake clutch that stops the blade each time the operator releases the handle.)

Have to go now.  The children are building an igloo.  I'm hoping that they are also shoveling the driveway.  We don't own a snowblower although during this winter season, I almost wish I owned one.

About ASPS

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. Representing more than 7,000 physician members, the Society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery.ASPS comprises more than 94 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the Society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. About ASRM The American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery is an organization of more than 600 surgeons that perform microsurgery and other complex reconstructive surgeries. The ASRM is dedicated to promoting, encouraging and advancing the art and science of microsurgery and other complex reconstructions through education and research. For more information, please visit About ASMS The American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons is the oldest organization representing maxillofacial plastic surgeons. The Society accomplishes its mission to advance the science and practice of surgery of the facial region and the craniofacial skeleton through excellence in education and research, and advocacy on behalf of patients and practitioners. About AAP The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. ( About AAOS With more than 35,000 members, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons ( or ( is the premier not-for-profit organization that provides education programs for orthopedic surgeons and allied health professionals, champions the interests of patients and advances the highest quality musculoskeletal health. An orthopedic surgeon is a physician who treats the musculoskeletal system, including bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves. Contact ASPS Media Relations | 847-228-9900 | [email protected]

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