25,000 years of lost productivity

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 14/08/2014

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People losing their balance is costing the country almost 9 million days of lost productivity a year, new figures from ACC reveal.

And they are more likely to suffer these accidental stumbles in Wellington and Dunedin than they are in Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton or Tauranga. No explanation is offered for why this should be the case, though it's possibly no coincidence that the former have more hills.

The 8,963,941 days of lost productivity for 2012-13 - the equivalent of almost 25,000 years - was slightly up from the previous year.

ACC paid out $2.37 billion for active claims during the year, with 1,743,725 new registered claims.

People falling over while at home was the most common injury type, while sport and recreational activities were the most common pre-accident activity.

People were more likely to be injured on the road or street in Wellington, while in Auckland "twisting movements" accounted for almost 10 per cent of claims, at a cost of $14.4 million.

Curiously, a "loss of balance" was the main cause of injury everywhere but more likely to happen in the hilly suburbs of the capital or Dunedin compared to Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton or Tauranga.

Christchurch and Auckland claimed the dubious honour of high rates of injury from serious assaults, with the former more than double the national average.

ACC spokesman Glenn Donovan said the severity and type of injuries fluctuated each year, but the data was extremely useful in identifying trends when compared with other agencies' data.

"We get a wealth of data around injuries and that's one of the reasons we're making this available. We don't want to sit on it; it's a goldmine."

The corporation's aim was to get people back to work as swiftly and safely as possible, so figuring out where and why accidents were happening was imperative.

Without a doubt, the No 1 cause of injuries was falling over at home - from tripping over a cord, a loose rug or slipping on something in the kitchen, he said.

People were usually more relaxed at home and, because of this, did not take as much care as they did when out and about.

Donovan said "intentional harm" was one of the seven key high-cost types of injury that ACC had refocused on at the beginning of the year.

The others were road, workplace, treatment, sport and recreation, and lifting, carrying and strain injuries, as well as falls.

Injuries from watersports were on the rise in most of the main centres during the past two years, a trend Water Safety New Zealand attributed partly to the popularity of new activities.

Chief executive Matt Claridge said sports such as paddleboarding and kite-surfing had surged in popularity and this had been reflected with an increase in injuries. An even newer activity, the water jetpack called a flyboard, was still a niche market because of its cost, but if it became more affordable, a rise in injuries was inevitable, he said.

"The message from us is the water's a great place for recreation, but you've got to make sure you take care of the safety precautions."

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- The Dominion Post

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