University environment not without risks, figures show

Academia might seem a fairly stable environment to work in but it is not without risk.

More than 1000 incidents, from burns and bruises to animal bites, were reported to the University of Otago's health and safety system last year.

The figures, acquired under the Official Information Act, showed the most common mishap was a sprain or a strain. More than 400 of those were reported by staff, students, contractors and visitors to the university.

That was followed by 178 "lacerations'', more than 100 reports of bruises, about 90 of slipping or tripping, and 86 "needle-stick'' injuries, caused by sharp objects.

There were 39 reported animal bites, mostly received by university staff, and a small number of allergic reactions.

There were also about 50 burns reported, including chemical burns, more than 70% of them incurred by staff.

A university spokeswoman confirmed the bites would have been incurred working with research animals and said those with first-aid training on campus were taught how to manage such bites.

"There is [also] an extensive training programme in place, including animal handling, that staff and students are required to complete prior to handling animals.

"Not all of the incidents will have resulted injury - gloves are worn and sometimes the glove is penetrated but the skin protected.''

The health and safety system was for more than 20,000 students and staff and also covered sporting competitions.

There were seven instances of irritation, caused by wearing clinical gloves or personal protective equipment, and most were reported by staff rather than visitors, contractors or students.

Slips and falls did not necessarily lead to injuries, the spokeswoman said.

"All slips, trips and falls are monitored weekly and where incidents are reported, the areas are inspected and controls implemented if required.''

The university had a programme of upgrading campus areas to reduce the hazards - improved surfacing, absorbent materials installed at building entrances.

Other events reported included 21 incidents of fainting, and 37 of concussion.


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