Don’t cut your summer short with a gardening or DIY accident this Bank Holiday Weekend, surgeons warn
24 May 2018
• There were around 8,500 admissions to hospital for gardening or DIY-related accidents a year, a total of 25,763 between 2014 and 2017
• Of the admissions to hospital in the past three years for an injury due to contact with a non-powered hand tool, lawn mower or other powered hand tools and household machinery, 90 % - or 23,258 - were male
• The figures show there were 2,082 hospital admissions of children and young people aged 0-19 (8 % of total) for a gardening or DIY accident, including 397 admissions of children aged 0-4
The Royal College of Surgeons has urged green-fingered and DIY enthusiasts not to cut their summer short by having a nasty accident this Bank Holiday Weekend, as latest figures show there were more than 25,700 hospital admissions in England for gardening and DIY-related accidents in the past three years alone.
Professor Vivien Lees, a Council Member at the Royal College of Surgeons, has urged the public to take extra care this weekend, as trauma surgeons report seeing a spike in nasty injuries sustained at home at the start of summer.
Professor Lees, who works in Manchester as a consultant hand and plastic surgeon, said:
“This is typically one of my busiest times of year, when people decide to use the Bank Holiday Weekend to make home improvements or trim their garden hedges. Over the past 20 years of working in the NHS, I have treated patients who have suffered some very serious injuries -from severed fingers and broken bones to painful infections. These injuries often leave a lasting physical and psychological impact on their lives. Some of my patients have been unable to work after having an accident while making home improvements or gardening.
“Taking basic safety precautions can help prevent some of these horrific accidents from happening in the first place and stop people from experiencing a debilitating and very distressing injury.”
The common injuries that Professor Lees and her hand surgeon colleagues at the British Society for Surgery of the Hand treat regularly at this time of year - when the weather improves and people decide to get their hedge trimmers and electric saws out - include trauma injuries to the hand. She has operated on patients who have fallen off ladders and caught their fingers on hedge trimmers, or tried to fix machinery when it is still plugged in, only for it to suddenly re-start, severing their fingers. Another common gardening injury she treats are serious infections - where, for example, people have been gardening without gloves and pricked themselves on a rose thorn which has then become infected.
To prevent avoidable accidents in the garden and at home, Professor Lees advises people to:
• Make sure you handle electrical equipment in the garden, or at home, safely, by reading and following the instructions
• Use appropriate protective gear (gloves, helmet, or goggles etc)
• If machinery does not work, ensure you unplug it before you investigate what the problem is
• Keep pets and children well out of the way when you are gardening, or using electrical equipment in the garden
• Do not handle electrical equipment if you have drunk alcohol
• Do not handle electrical equipment if you are drowsy from taking medication
Latest figures from NHS Digital show there were 25,763 hospital admissions for gardening and DIY-related accidents between 2014-2017. Typically, there is a seasonal increase in hospital admissions between April-September when the weather improves - 56% or 14,341 of hospital admissions for DIY and gardening accidents in England were in the six month period April – September in the past three years. The figures also show, of the admissions to hospital in the past three years for an injury due to contact with a non-powered hand tool, lawn mower or other powered hand tools and household machinery, 90 % - or 23,258 - were male. Among those sustaining accidents with a lawn mower, the most common age groups affected were those aged between 40 to 74 years old who accounted for 58 % of hospital admissions in England.
David Shewring, President of the British Society for Surgery of the Hand, said:
“The British Society for Surgery of the Hand is calling for everyone to take extra care when gardening this summer, as many of these injuries are preventable. If you do injure yourself, there are simple immediate steps you can take. First, ensure any tools or machinery are turned off and out of harm’s way. Hold your hand up to help reduce bleeding and swelling, and try to keep the wound clean. If the injury is serious, seek urgent medical help from a hand specialist. Hand injuries are a major source of disability, so it is important that people take good care of their hands and know what to do when an accident happens.”
Ms Helen Langford, 56, of Tameside, Manchester, decided to make a side table and bought a second hand electric saw over the internet. The saw slipped while she was cutting the timber in her garage, severing four fingers on her right hand. Neighbours and a passer-by heard her screams and helped her, with one taking her to Tameside General Hospital, where she received initial emergency treatment. She was then transferred to Wythenshawe Hospital for emergency surgery.
Professor Lees and a team of medics at the hospital worked to try and save as much of her hand as possible, but had to amputate her middle finger and part of her ring finger on her right hand. Since her accident, 15 months ago, Ms Langford has undergone months of physiotherapy and further treatment to try and regain the strength and movement in her right hand. As a result of the injury she sustained, she can no longer play the piano, paint or do sculptures which were her main interests. Although she has a bought an automatic car and had the steering wheel on it adapted, she can only drive short distances.
Ms Langford said: “I wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through. Prof Lees and her team worked very hard to save as much of my hand as possible and through their dedication and skills did manage to repair two of my fingers. But my recovery has been a very difficult, hard slog and I am still receiving trauma counselling.
“I would advise anyone who is thinking of using electrical equipment to do work in the garden or at home, to make sure the machinery is safe. Only use power tools when you are fully concentrating and not tired, for example. Also, make sure someone knows where you are while you are using them. Without the help of my neighbours, this accident could have had an even more tragic ending.”
Notes to editors
1. The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.
2. NHS Digital provided the RCS with figures for finished hospital admission episodes (FAEs) for DIY and gardening related injuries, using the following external cause codes:
W27 - Contact with non-powered hand tool
W28 - Contact with powered lawnmower, and
W29 - Contact with other powered hand tools and household machinery for 2014-15 to 2016-17. The data, for counts of FAEs with a DIY or gardening related cause code, is displayed by month, for 2014-15 to 2016-17, and is available upon request. The data is for activity in English NHS Hospitals and English NHS commissioned activity in the independent sector.
FAE is not a count of people – it is a count of admissions, so these figures cannot be used to suggest the precise number of people who have been admitted for a condition, because it is possible some people may have been admitted more than once within the same year.
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