Raleigh boy who lost leg and experts urge lawn mower safety

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Mowing the lawn: for most people, it’s a chore, but you probably don’t think of it as a potentially dangerous activity.

A boy from Raleigh feels differently after losing his leg in a lawnmower accident eight years ago.

Shooting hoops in the backyard, Matthew Baldwin’s every bit your typical 12-year-old. It takes a second glance to realize one of his legs is a prosthetic. Most of the time it doesn’t bother Baldwin, who lost his leg in a riding lawnmower accident when he was four, but he admits sometimes the prosthetic makes things tough.

“It slows you down,” he said. “It makes you where you can’t run as fast as others. Now he wants to raise awareness about lawnmower safety.

“You can lose your foot, you can lose your fingers, you can lose skin on your leg – there’s many things you can lose,” Baldwin said.

The independent safety organization Underwriters Laboratories, or UL, is also working to keep people safe when mowing. It tests push mowers at its facility at RTP. UL’S John Drengenberg said every year more than 70,000 people visit emergency rooms across the country for lawnmower-related injuries.

One of the tests done at UL’s facility uses BBs piped under the lawnmower to see if the mower’s guards stop the BB’s flying out from under it.

“This particular test is assuming you might encounter an object in your lawn and, unfortunately, if there’s a child around or a pet around, that object could be thrown with great speed at somebody and it could do a lot of damage,” Drengenberg said.

UL also urges anyone mowing to wear safety glasses. Those are also tested at the RTP facility by projecting a steel ball at about 100 miles per hour toward the glasses.

Reading glasses and sunglasses both broke during the testing, but the safety glasses didn’t.

UL is always responding to new technology in both glasses and mowers, and adjusting its tests accordingly, but basic safety tips remain the same.

Anyone mowing should wear sturdy shoes and keep kids and pets away from mowers – whether push mowers or riding ones. Both kinds of mowers carry risks.

It’s advice Matthew Baldwin hopes everyone will heed. “Don’t let your kids come outside when you’re mowing the lawn,” he urged.

If you’d like to learn more about Matthew Baldwin’s story, lawnmower safety and the foundation his family started, go to http://www.matthewbaldwin.org.

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