Big jump in home fall injuries 'disturbing'

ACC community injury prevention consultant Andy Redfearn is keen to highlight the risk of falls...
ACC community injury prevention consultant Andy Redfearn is keen to highlight the risk of falls at home, including over the Christmas and new year holidays. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
A big increase in injuries caused by falls at Dunedin homes is ''disturbing'' and more must be done to reduce them, ACC campaigner Denise Powell says.

ACC home fall injury claims throughout Otago in all age groups increased about 12% in the financial year ending June 30, 2012.

And in 2011, such claims by working-age people increased about 19% in Dunedin, up 546 to 3375, from the year before.

Throughout Otago such falls increased about 18%, to 5869, also among people aged 25 to 64, that year.

Injuries at home are the biggest cause of ACC claims, costing ACC $272 million in 2011.

ACC statistics also show 64 working-age people died from falls at home in Otago over the five years to June 30 last year - averaging more than one death a month, and a high proportion, apparently, in the greater Dunedin area.

Nine Otago people died from such injuries in the year to June last year. Nationally, more than 1340 people died in home falls over the five years.

Dr Powell, who is president of Acclaim Otago, an ACC claimant support group, said more resources, including more television awareness-raising campaigns, should be devoted to cutting the toll.

Any cuts, such as to funding for programmes to reduce falls among older people, were ''false economy'', she said.

The biggest percentage rise in such injury claims in Otago districts in 2011 was in Clutha, up more than 21% (to 472). There was a rise of about 16% in the Queenstown-Lakes district (to 1080); and smaller rises in Central Otago (11%, to 553) and Waitaki (12%, 389).

Psychology plays a major role in home injury accidents, Dunedin-based ACC community injury prevention consultant Andy Redfearn points out.

A national survey showed that while people believed there was a substantial general risk of injuries at home, they believed their own personal accident risk was much lower.

Mr Redfearn, who has spoken to many neighbourhood watch groups about the issue, said the fall-related deaths and serious injuries were an ''absolute tragedy'' and also had wider adverse effects on families.

Most home-related fall injuries in Dunedin and Otago happened outside the house such as when using ladders to clear leaves from gutters.

Ice was a bigger winter risk factor in Dunedin than in more northern areas, but increased ladder usage in summer, such as for hedge cutting, also increased risks.

Taking a few simple measures - including clearing moss from paths and decks- greatly reduced the risk.

''We underestimate our risk and underestimate the effect that a minor or moderate injury can have on our everyday lives.''

Reducing the risks
• Remove moss from paths.
• Secure power cords.
• Fasten rugs and mats.
• Avoid using chairs as ladders.
• Wipe up spills.


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