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LAWN MOWER SAFETY

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'Tis the season to be careful, lest lawn and garden work lead to lacerated feet and fingers - or worse.

Lawn mowers, electric hedge trimmers and other power tools greatly ease the burden of caring for the outdoors. But they also pose serious hazards for the unwary, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission warns.Newer lawn mowers have devices that cause the blade to stop turning when the operator lets go of the handle, a system designed to prevent hand injury.

But many older mowers remain in use, and owners of those machines can still lose fingers if they try to clean clogged grass of other problems while the motor is running.

The solution is simple: Stop the engine before doing anything beneath the mower deck, even cleaning out a clogged grass chute. It can pay to disconnect the spark plug so the motor cannot accidentally turn over.

And even with hanging guards, mowers can still run over feet if operators are not careful. The commission suggests always pushing mowers, trying to pull them toward you rarely, if ever.

In addition to the threat of cutting off fingers and toes, the spinning blade can hurl such objects as small stones at high speed. The safety commission urges keeping children and pets away from the area being mowed to prevent them being hit by such items.

Stop the mower before crossing gravel driveways.

Gasoline-powered movers present the added hazard of burns.

Adding fuel to a hot mower is extremely dangerous, say safety officials, who warn that it can suddenly catch fire, especially in the event of a spill.

In addition the muffler and other mower parts become very hot and can cause severe burns if touched.

Electric mowers have a cord for power that can be a hazard if accidentally cut, the commission adds.

With walk-behind mowers, the safety commission suggests mowing across steep slopes, never up and down.

Hedge trimmers aren't as dangerous as lawn mowers, but can pose their own set of dangers, the commission reports.

The danger of being cut by the blades is obvious, of course. Those cuts seem to occur most often when people try to use trimmers with one hand.

Improper grounding or cutting the electric cord can also lead to electric shocks, the commission says.