Rake and ruin


Home gardeners top $1 million in ACC claims each year

Dunedin home gardeners have clocked up more than $1 million in ACC claims for each of the last three years.
Last year, home gardening injuries in the city resulted in more than 1600 claims, totalling $1,062,358 so far. And November may be a particularly dangerous time to venture into the garden. In the past five years, two Novembers — in 2013 and 2014 — were the months which resulted in the highest number of claims — 202 in each. Last year the month with the highest number of claims was January, when 198 injuries were logged. The bulk of the claims, which exclude gardening injuries which are work-related, occur in spring and summer.
Over the five years up to and including 2015, those in their 50s made the highest number of claims (1723), followed by those in their 60s, with 1543 claims. Gardeners aged 80 and over made 587 claims over the fiveyear period. The most common injuries were soft tissue ones, followed by lacerations, punctures and stings, then foreign body in ‘‘orifice/eye’’, fracture/ dislocation and burns. Age Concern Otago chief executive Susan Davidson said the statistics probably reflected people’s enthusiasm for gardening. Sometimes people might not be as fit as they used to be and therefore more susceptible to injury. The organisation’s educator, Kristen Beardsmore, said she could relate to the issue, having had quite a few gardening injuries herself, including the classic standing on the end of a gardening fork and it hitting her in the face. Mostly her mishaps had not resulted in ACC claims, although there was the occasion when she damaged a hand after getting it stuck in a rockery. If people were a little unsteady when using machinery, that could increase the risk of injury.
A Ministry of Health brochure Safer and Healthier Gardening was an excellent resource she offered those attending Love Later Life seminars. Topics included safe storage of chemicals, avoiding back injuries, operating machinery and sun protection. Stihl Shop Dunedin owner Dave Campbell organises chainsaw safety classes and also offers safety tips to users of other machines. When removing flax wound around the blade of a mower, he advised removing the mower’s sparkplug to cut the risk of accidentally starting the machine. He also cautioned people against removing safety guards from line trimmers so they could cut a bigger area. Nationally, the number of home gardening claims made annually has risen by more than 13,500 in the past five years with the yearly costs increasing by more than $4.6 million. Last year the national cost of home gardening claims was $30,420,215 for 56,392 injuries, compared with $25,780,311 in 2011 (42,659 claims). A spokesman for the Dunedin Hospital emergency department said a review of patients in the past year did not include a large number showing up with gardening injuries, but suggested they might be more likely to be seen by family doctors or others in the community health sector. Public Health South reminded gardeners about the risk of Legionnaire’s disease from exposure to dry potting mix, particularly in confined spaces. The spokesman also highlighted the therapeutic benefits of gardening, including reduced depression, loneliness, anxiety and stress, improving balance, alleviating symptoms of dementia and improving the sense of personal achievement among children.