Water injuries up in Tauranga

By Sonya Bateson, Cassandra Mason

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Lifeguards in action. Photo / Jimmy Joe
Lifeguards in action. Photo / Jimmy Joe

The number of Tauranga residents who hurt themselves in the water last year was significantly higher than the national average, ACC figures show.

The figures come during Safety Week as ACC Minister Judith Collins warns people to beware of seemingly harmless everyday hazards.

ACC's district comparison reports showed from June 2012 to June 2013, Tauranga's local injury rate for "water sports" injuries was notably higher than the national average - 56 claims per 10,000, compared with 34 nationally.

Mount Maunganui Lifeguards general manager Glenn Bradley said the majority of local water-related injuries he dealt with were not serious. "What tends to present to us here more often than not is cuts and grazes."

Wounds suffered in the water were usually the result of contact with shells or rocks.

There were a small number of serious injuries, but not enough for a pattern to emerge, Mr Bradley said.

The Mount Maunganui track kept local lifeguards busier with first aid than any incidents in the water, he said.

"That's people tripping, falling, exhaustion, fainting ... you get a mix of accidents. We had one last weekend when someone fell about 6 metres. Luckily the injuries weren't too serious."

St John Western Bay of Plenty territory manager Ross Clarke said water sports injuries were a small proportion of their call-outs. "I would imagine a lot of those people would self present to doctors or the hospital and don't require ambulance transportation.

"We get the odd call-out when the power boat racing is on, that's quite an obvious one. The most common injuries for us are falls resulting in broken hips, lacerations, cuts, assaults, work- related accidents and vehicle accidents."

Tauranga Jet Sport Association president Leanne Brown said the club exercised extreme caution in their activities to prevent injury.

"With any sport comes injuries and with motor sport that is taken to another level. We follow all the maritime rules and if there are any issues, they usually come from people who aren't members of our club."

Ms Brown said like road rules, people could not be made to follow maritime rules and this was possibly why accidents happened.

Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club manager Christine Headey said she was also the health and safety officer and the only incident the club had in her four years as a member was when a child got hit in the head by a boom and was mildly concussed.

"It's pretty rare to have a bad accident, every now and then someone will get hit in the head by a boom but that's about it."

The cost of ACC claims in the region is dropping, with more than $151 million paid to claimants in the wider Bay of Plenty in the year to June, compared with more than $188 million in 2008/2009 The reports showed more than half of injuries in Tauranga happened at home, totalling close to $18.4 million in claims. Sport and recreation injuries were the next most common, accounting for 22 per cent.

While accidents sustained in the street only accounted for 7 per cent of claims, they were among the most costly, accounting for the second highest claims bill of $11.9 million.

Tauranga's injury claim rate - the number of claims lodged per 10,000 people - has dropped over the last five years to 4529, but is still about 660 higher than the national average. Nationwide, injuries cost the country $7 million a day.

By the numbers

*ACC's annual report showed it accepted 1.7 million new claims in the 12 months to June 2013, for a total cost of $2.6 billion.
*Claims expenditure was $208 million under budget.
*Medical treatment accounted for $449 million, while $234 million was paid out for hospital treatment and elective surgery.
*Compensation for lost wages was the highest cost, at $759 million, while $406 million was paid out for "social rehabilitation'' like home help, child care, and house modifications like wheelchair ramps.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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