A robotic mower automatically drives back and forth in your yard and mows the lawn with its sharp blades, while at the same time children could be in the yard. The manufacturers of robotic mowers praise the fact that their devices are equipped with safety mechanisms. But is this protection sufficient for children playing in the yard?
Are robotic mowers dangerous to children? Even though robotic mowers have various safety systems, they can be dangerous for children. While the robotic mower is mowing, children should only play in the yard under supervision, if at all. However, the risk of accidents can be reduced to a minimum by choosing suitable mowing times.
In the following I would like to explain why robotic mowers are dangerous for children. Nevertheless, it is no problem to buy a robotic mower as a family with children. Below, I will explain to you what possibilities you have to virtually eliminate possible accidents.
How Dangerous Are Robotic Mowers for Children?
Robotic mowers can cause serious injuries to children because, just like a normal lawn mower, they have blades on the underside with which they cut the lawn. Even though they are smaller, with many robotic mowers they can move freely and give way with some resistance. These blades can cause deep cuts if a part of the body gets into the mower.
How Do Robotic Mowers Try to Avoid Accidents?
Two systems or sensors ensure that as few accidents as possible can happen. On the one hand, every robotic mower has a so-called impact sensor. With this the robotic mower recognizes when it hits an object or even a human being. It then resets itself, turns in another direction and then drives on. With most newer models this system works quite well, but some older models still have problems with detection.
The German consumer organization “Stiftung Warentest”, which is involved in investigating and comparing goods and services in an unbiased way, has identified a few problem cases here, and I will go into that in a moment. By the way, since robotic lawn mowers are way more popular in Germany than in many other countries, there is also a lot more reading material from tests and the like in German (and I speak fluent German), which is why I sometimes refer to them.
Almost all robotic mowers also have a lifting sensor. This is not only used by the robotic mower to trigger an alarm if a thief tries to steal the device, but also ensures that the robotic mower stops and the blades stop turning. So if the robotic mower is lifted by a child, the risk of injury should – at least in theory – be quite small.
Finally there is the so-called safety distance. This is the distance between the car body and the knives. The greater this distance, the lower the risk of the robotic mower causing injury when hitting a foot or the like. However, there are differences between the models in this respect.
Features of the robotic mower that improve safety are therefore
How Do Robotic Mowers Perform in Terms of Safety?
Some time ago, “Stiftung Warentest” (German consumer organization, as mentioned above) tested several robotic mower models. Of course the safety was also tested. The result: all robotic mowers offer a certain accident potential. For this reason, no device received a better overall mark than “Satisfactory” in the end. Two models, namely the Honda Miimo 310 and the Robomow RC304u even received the grade “Unsatisfactory”, because they could not pass the safety test.
The test simulated accident scenarios with dummy dolls of children. It was tested how well the robotic mower detects a standing, crawling and lying child. When the child was standing, all robotic mowers turned around, but the crawling child was hit by the Honda Miimo 310 and Robomow RC304u, which would have caused dangerous cuts to a real child. Even a dummy foot was not recognized as an obstacle by the two robotic mowers.
However, all devices pose a certain risk of accidents, no matter how well they detect obstacles. For example, an arm stretched out flat on the lawn can be overlooked by any robotic mower.
The manufacturers of robotic mowers point out to all without exception that the robotic mower may only be operated under supervision when there are children in the yard.
In order to avoid accidents, no children should play on the lawn while the robotic mower is mowing, just like with a conventional lawn mower. The problem, however, is that the robotic mower drives on its own, and it seems you cannot control it very well at first. “Stiftung Warentest” also sees a great potential for danger in this, when the lawn robot drives through the area semi-“uncontrolled”.
Secondly, the robotic mower has to mow for half the day to meet its target. And at some point the children want to play on the lawn. There must inevitably be a time overlap, right?
Finally, it should be noted that robotic mowers are indeed dangerous for children. There have even been accidents in this context. For that reason, they should never run unattended, if kids play on the lawn, or even better, they should simply mow at the same time as kids play on the lawn.
What Can You Do to Minimize the Risk of Accidents?
Even though the robotic mower manufacturers spare no expense or effort to make their robotic mowers as safe as possible, they cannot guarantee that accidents will not occur if the robotic mower is not supervised. The instructions explicitly state that operation of the robotic mower while children are playing in the yard may only be carried out under supervision.
This is also not surprising in my opinion. After all, if you mow your lawn with a normal lawnmower, you wouldn’t let your children run around the lawnmower either. The fact that the robotic lawnmower is automatic does not mean that children can be left unattended when it mows near them.
Another problem is that robotic mowers seem more “harmless” than normal lawnmowers, as they make much less noise and are much smaller. Therefore the danger is easily underestimated. A first measure can therefore be to tell your children that the robotic mower is dangerous and that they are not allowed to play on the lawn when the robotic mower is mowing.
With Suitable Mowing Times There is No Danger for Children
Developing an understanding of the danger of the mower in your children can make a difference when they are old enough, but how well can you be sure that the children will not do anything stupid? Besides, small children cannot understand this, of course. Therefore there is a much better way to avoid any accidents with the robotic mower. By letting the robot mow at times when the children are not in the yard, for example when they are at school in the morning or in bed in the evening.
At the same time, this means that the time window in which the robotic mower can mow is smaller than usual. If, for example, only about 5 hours are available for mowing in the morning, you should take this into account, because then the robot has to manage much more in this short time than usual.
A Larger Robotic Mower for Shorter Mowing Times
With the maximum area specifications of the robotic mowers it is assumed that the robotic mower mows from early to late every day of the week, i.e. approx. 15 hours. This specification is very misleading, as very few yard owners consider letting the lawn robot really mow for that long. And if you have children, who should also be able to play in the yard, you have to consider this in particular.
Therefore, when buying a robotic mower, you should choose a larger device that has a larger area capacity, as it mows the same amount of area in a comparatively short time, so that the children can then play in the yard in the afternoon.
You can find out more about how to calculate the whole thing with the area output in my article How long does a robotic mower need to mow your yard?
A Quieter Robotic Mower to Mow in the Evening or at Night
Another strategy may be to buy a particularly quiet robotic mower, which you can then set up so that it can mow even at very late hours or even at night when your children are already in bed.
Different municipalities and communities can have different regulations for operating noisy machinery, if they have any at all. Robotic lawn mowers are quieter than common lawn mowers, so they have the potential to be also mowing during the night. However, the noise levels also differ between different models. So if you want to have a quiet night and not disturb your neighbour the rule “the quieter the better” applies.
I wouldn’t recommend a robotic lawn mower for mowing during the night, that operates above 60 dB. So here is a list of robotic lawn mowers which, according to the manufacturer’s specifications, have a maximum noise emission of 60 decibels:
- HONDA Miimo HRM310: 58 dB
- HONDA Miimo HRM520: 58 dB
- HUSQVARNA Automower 115H: 59 dB
- HUSQVARNA Automower 305: 59 dB
- HUSQVARNA Automower 310: 58 dB
- HUSQVARNA Automower 315: 60 dB
- HUSQVARNA Automower 315X: 60 dB
- HUSQVARNA Automower 430X: 58 dB
- HUSQVARNA Automower 430XH: 58 dB
- HUSQVARNA Automower 450X: 58 dB
- HUSQVARNA Automower 450XH: 58 dB
- MCCULLOCH ROB R1000: 59 dB
- MCCULLOCH ROB S400: 57 dB
- MCCULLOCH ROB S600: 57 dB
A rule that always applies is respecting nighttime resting hours. Whether your robotic mower is suitable for mowing at night ultimately depends on whether your neighbor feels disturbed by the noise. In very densely populated areas, e.g. in the inner city, this can be the case even with very quiet robotic mowers.
If there is a certain distance between your yard and your neighbor’s house, it is worth considering using your robotic mower at night. I would recommend you not to mess it up with your neighbour. If you try this, be sure to communicate with them and ask them whether they can hear the noise at night or not.
Note: Certain factors can cause your robotic mower to be noisier than normal. For example, blunt blades can cause a louder mowing noise. Some robotic mowers also become a little louder when they cut wet grass. You can read all about the volume of robotic mowers here.
Are robotic mowers dangerous for pets? – Robotic mowers can also be dangerous for pets and other yard residents such as rabbits.
Robotic mowers have a certain accident potential. They are by no means completely safe to operate around children. The manufacturers point out that children should not play unattended in the yard while the robotic mower is mowing. There have even been some accidents in this context, so this advice should be taken seriously.
However, this does not mean that you cannot get a robotic mower if you have children. The robotic mower should then mow at times when the children are not playing in the yard, such as in the morning when they are at school, or late in the evening or at night. If that is your plan, you should either get a larger robotic mower that can finish the job faster due to its higher area output, or one that is very quiet and can also mow in the evening or at night.
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