Safety involves choice
By Grant J Everett
Every day in Australia, 26 people are killed by an accident and 1,200 are hospitalised. And while poisonings and drownings have fallen since the turn of the century thanks to awareness campaigns, our overall rate of injury hasn’t changed all that much.
The most common accidents that require hospitalisation are caused by car crashes, falls, violence, sporting and recreational activities, work accidents and self-harm. The frustrating truth is that the vast majority of these cases are entirely preventable, and don’t NEED to happen.
So what can we do to live longer, healthier lives? For starters, behaving like you’re bulletproof is a very effective method of finding out that you aren’t. Impulsive decisions can lead to life-and-death consequences not just for us, but also for our friends and loved ones.
Driving is a prime example of this, as transport accidents are by far the most common cause of injury for Australians, and account for nearly half of all injury deaths. So, stick to the speed limit, don’t drive drunk, and don’t get behind the wheel when you’re tired. The best way to keep safe is to choose not to drive (or allow your mate to drive) like a fool.
This is a good headspace to have whenever you are doing something dangerous, as there is always a right way and a wrong way to do things. For instance, if you are chopping carrots, slice away from yourself and use a stable surface. If you are operating dangerous warehousing equipment, wear the right safety gear and don’t forget what you learned in WHS training.
Another common factor in many accidents is trying to cut corners, so don’t rush! Running down the stairs is a good way to break your ankle, galloping around with a hot saucepan will leave you one slip away from getting doused in boiling gravy, and not taking care with industrial machines is an efficient way to lose an extremity. If you are an older Australian, it is even more imperative that you take care when you’re getting around, as one trip can ruin your year.
Sadly, suicide is our second leading cause of preventable death. However, it is never inevitable, and it isn’t a single event: suicidality or suicidal thoughts usually develops over time, and there will often be warning signs. Maybe somebody you know has become withdrawn, or seems depressed, or changed in some noticeable way? We can all help prevent suicide by keeping an open dialogue with our friends, colleagues and loved ones, and asking them RUOK? Your interest can make all the difference.
Your age, socioeconomic status and where you live can strongly influence your likelihood of taking a trip to Emergency. Young males, for instance, account for a whopping three-quarters of injury deaths and hospitalisations, and their over-representation in road traffic accidents is atrocious. As injury rates among young males only increase the closer they get to adulthood, getting older doesn’t always mean getting wiser!
When it comes to other at-risk groups, the most socioeconomically disadvantaged fifth of our population have an injury death rate almost twice as high as those from the most privileged fifth, and are almost 30% more likely to end up with a serious wound than other segments of the socioeconomic spectrum. Finally, it also pays to be extra careful when you’re out near Woop Woop, as the rates of hospitalisation and death increase substantially the further you get from a major city. The further you are from help, the lower your survival chances plummet.
When it comes to injuries caused by interpersonal violence, being able to walk away from a fight is your safest move. One punch can be deadly. Drinking alcohol or using substances can make good choices more difficult, so getting blackout drunk can potentially result in far worse than a hangover.
So while luck can play a part, our own choices are also an important influence our safety and the safety of people around us (see the next issue of ACTION – ‘CANSAS #11- Safety to others’). Unlike luck, however, we have a great deal of control over what choices we make.
“Injury among young Australians,” Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2008