Poor housing blamed for large number of injuries in the home

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

Poorly designed and maintained houses are responsible for a significant proportion of injuries in the home - and fixing the problems doesn't have to be costly, a study has found.

Otago University researchers drew on ACC injury claims data, in depth-interviews and trained inspectors to look at common potential hazards in the home.

They found 38 per cent of injuries were related to structural hazards both inside and outside the house.

The potential hazards were widespread, with 65 per cent of homes lacking working smoke detectors, 55 per cent lacking fully fenced driveways, 49 per cent having hot water over 60C, and 34 per cent having poorly lit access to the house.

Lead author Michael Keall said the study was an important step in determining which areas of the home should be made safer.

He said people tended to blame themselves for their injuries, rather than looking at easily fixed home hazards which may have played a role.

"However, when these hazards are identified by trained inspectors, householders may be able to make use of this information to improve the safety of their homes."

Dr Keall said important structural hazards could be fixed relatively cheaply at an average of about $600 a household.

"The findings of this study and previous research we've done in this area indicate that this expenditure is justified in terms of increased safety.

"Home hazards impose a considerable cost in terms of injuries, with the overall social cost considerably higher than the total cost to the country of road injuries."

A previous study showed the total social cost of deaths and injuries in the home was $13 billion - more than three times the $4b cost of road injuries.

The latest study, funded by the Health Research Council, drew on ACC data on 1328 home injuries involving 1612 people, reported between 2006 and 2009.

ACC insurance and prevention general manager John Beaglehole said the study would help inform future injury prevention initiatives.

"The more we know about the causes of home injuries, the better placed we are to come up with ways to tackle them," he said.

"It can be hard convincing Kiwis that there are injury risks in the home, because home is where we instinctively feel safe and secure.

"However there are some pretty straightforward safety tips that people can follow around the home to significantly reduce the risk of accidents."

Mr Beaglehole said those included clearing clutter from the floor, cleaning up spills immediately, making sure light switches were easy to access from bed, clearing moss from paths, and installing outdoor lighting.


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