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ACC Safety Audit launch highlights injury toll


ACC Safety Audit launch highlights injury toll

Imagine if on just one day 100,000 New Zealanders broke an arm, or a leg or dislocated a shoulder. Think of the headlines, and not just in New Zealand, but around the globe. Yet, few of us paused to think last year as 122,688 people broke bones and dislocated limbs in so-called "accidents".

And we were surprisingly accepting as 1030 people died of injuries and 99,495 were moderately or seriously injured.

The ACC Safety Audit reveals a disaster that got worse day-by-day. On average, a child a week died in New Zealand, just from injuries received at home. Last year, 29 of those kids killed at home never saw the age of five.

In the same period, 16 15-to-19 year olds and 187 adults died from injuries at home.

The vast majority of these deaths were caused by slipping, stumbling and tripping, says ACC chief executive Garry Wilson.

"That's why we've been going out of our way to startle people with our slips, trips and falls television ads which got underway again two weeks ago. "As people become more aware that something needs to be done, we will be showing them ways to make their homes and workplaces safer," Mr Wilson said.

In 2002/03, 37,000 moderate-to-serious claims caused by falls cost $142 million. In addition, another 15,000 claims dragging on from previous years cost another $215 million.

On the roads, our biggest killer, a bit less drinking and lower speeds would have helped. As it was, claims for 374 road deaths were made to ACC, and 4444 road users were moderately or seriously injured.

The workplace was better. Incredibly though, more than 110 people died at work. But if you think that you will be safer going to work, remember that 32,656 people suffered moderate-to-serious injuries.

Statistics like these, which can be found in ACC's Safety Audit, make for a sobering read.

(Eds: Drop in regional figures following to suit.) The regional figures are no exception either. In Northland, there were 4021 moderate or serious injuries and 62 claims for deaths accepted by ACC last year.

Workplace accidents accounted for 1440 injuries and six deaths; 893 people were injured and 14 killed at home or in the community; 517 were hurt and six killed while involved in sports or recreation, and 226 were injured and 30 killed in road crashes.

A further 945 injuries and seven fatalities were classified as “other” because the accident scene did not fit within the four main categories or because of a lack of information.

This year, ACC has adopted a cross, distinctively stamped through the Safety Audit document, to symbolise the impact of the injury toll. Sadly, crosses like these are becoming commonplace at the roadside marking the locations of fatal "accidents".

Fortunately, things can be done to stem this toll.

On the roads, ACC supports "booze buses" operated by the Police. It added 12 new speed detection trailers which warn speeding drivers to slow down and it partnered with the LTSA to introduce Practice, an education initiative for novice drivers.

And it works with sports organisations to reduce the impact of injuries. The Sideline Management of Strains and Sprains initiative has seen more than 7000 sports coaches and managers trained in treatment of soft tissue injuries.

ACC, the Rugby Union and Sports Medicine New Zealand also collaborated to produce a sideline concussion management guide that is distributed free to sports coaches this season.

"ACC has formed partnerships with 12 high-risk industries. With each we have established a Safer Industry Council which targets safety improvements to reduce the devastation that serious injury can bring," Mr Wilson said.

Five of these industries – manufacturing, farming, forestry, fishing and construction – account for 41 percent of workplace fatalities and 51 percent of injuries. But if every one of the moderately-to-seriously injured last year were given a single page, the safety audit would have to be the length of 65 Auckland telephone books.

"These are not just numbers. Every one of these injuries or deaths represents a personal tragedy for the individuals and their families," Mr Wilson said.

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