ACC accepts more than a million new claims each year. Most aren't extreme sports injuries or DIY disasters -- they're for everyday mishaps in the home. Does that mean we're a nation of klutzes? Catherine Gaffaney investigates.
Natasha Howarth almost fell into her freezer with shock when she dropped an 18kg box of frozen chicken on her foot.
The mother-of-three was getting a few pieces of the chicken out for dinner when she lost grip of the box. It crushed the big toe on her left foot, breaking it in three places.
"I screamed the F word and almost fell in [to the freezer]. My friend was over. He came running and carried me to the couch.
"I went to the doctor two days later and they taped my big toe to the toe next to it. I had to wear a moon boot and be on crutches for four weeks. After that, I still had to wear the moon boot but I was able to walk on it."
Her children were aged 4 weeks, 2 and 3 at the time. "It was really hard to do things with the kids. I live in a two-storey house so even moving around home was hard. My mum came and helped with the kids full-time."
Howarth is one of thousands of Kiwis to have injuries at home each year. Doctors told Howarth her toe should fully heal in three to six months. Five months on, she is not able to bend it or put pressure on it for too long.
ACC accepts about 1.8 million new claims each year and pays out about $2.4 billion in annual claim costs.
Western Bay of Plenty has the highest accident rate in regional North Island, when populations as of the 2013 census and the amount of new claims received by ACC that year are compared.
Northlanders and Gisborne residents are also seemingly accident prone, coming in second and third in accident rates.
Generally, multiple injuries from an accident come under one ACC claim but if something such as a concussion is diagnosed at a later date, it will be lodged as a separate claim.
What's behind such a high accident rate?
About 800,000 injuries happen in or around the home each year. That is more than one-third of the new claims ACC receives each year.
ACC spokeswoman Suzanne Muth said we are an active nation -- but it is hard to know whether Kiwis are particularly accident prone.
Kids shouldn't be mollycoddled. The good thing about New Zealand is that most schools encourage kids to be active. If you give them space, they'll run, if you give them a playground to play on, they'll play.
"Because the ACC scheme is unique in the world we're unable to compare accidental injury data with other countries to gauge if Kiwis are more klutzy," she said.
"However, we do know that Kiwi kids are more active than others globally and our longstanding love of the outdoors and adventure, at any age, could suggest that we do sustain a few more activity-related strains and sprains than countries with more sedentary lifestyles."
Do-it-yourself activities account for just under one per cent of new claims each year -- a cost of $13 million to ACC.
"We suspect that one of the reasons we're so prone to injuries, such as falls, in the home is because the home is where we naturally feel safe and secure, and we let down our guard a little," Ms Muth said.
"Also, we don't tend to have formal health and safety practices in place in our homes, as most of us do in our workplaces."
Steps and stairs account for almost double the number of ACC claims than any other room or location in or around the home.
The bathroom is the second most common scene for accidents, followed by the bedroom and then the lounge.
Of the 800,000 injuries that happen in the home each year, more than 300,000 involve falls.
"Falls in and around the home happen for a multitude of reasons -- common ones being falls from ladders; slipping over on spills or water on bathroom and kitchen floors; tripping over electrical cords; slipping on loose rugs or mats; tripping over toys and clutter left in walkways; slips on mossy paths and decks; and tripping over in the dark," Ms Muth said.
In an attempt to address the woeful statistics on workplace injuries, the Government introduced new regulatory agency WorkSafe New Zealand in December 2013. The agency is tasked with achieving a 25 per cent reduction in workplace deaths and serious harm by 2020.
Agriculture, construction, forestry, health services, hospitality, and the manufacturing, meat and road freight industries have the highest rates of injuries, according to ACC.
A WorkSafe NZ spokesman said, whatever the workplace, employers and employees are responsible for anywhere, at any time
Managing workplace risks.
"Responsibility for managing risks in the workplace lie with those who are best placed to do so," he said.
"Under the Health and Safety in Employment Act employers have a duty to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees, contractors and members of the public (customers, for example).
"Employees also have duties to ensure that their actions -- or failure to take action -- do not put people at risk."
Out and about
Our love of the outdoors and being active has pros and cons, according to Massey University's School of Exercise and Sport Science director Steve Stannard.
He says Kiwis are less active in their workplace and so more conscious about being active in their leisure time than they used to be.
"More participation in sports and adventure activities is obviously going to mean more accidents," he says.
"Biking, for example, is being taken up by far more middle aged men. If you're biking fairly regularly and going on mountain biking trails in the weekend, you're going to fall at some point."
Encouraging kids to be active is great because it develops important motor skills, though it will lead to a few stumbles, he says.
"Kids shouldn't be mollycoddled. The good thing about New Zealand is that most schools encourage kids to be active. If you give them space, they'll run, if you give them a playground to play on, they'll play.
"It'll mean cuts and bruises and maybe the odd more serious injury but it's far better to have them as a child than as an adult when they'll cause you a lot more grief and cost far more in the health area."
After in-depth statistical analysis and discussion with experts, the adage "accidents can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time" appears to stand. So what do you really need to know?
1. Be careful carrying heavy loads, such as 18kg of frozen chicken.
2. Be mindful of steps and stairs -- even if you're not in Western Bay of Plenty where, statistically at least, you have a greater chance of a trip or fall.