Computer Accident Study Highlights Hazards of Home Office

Computers are the cause of a surprising number of serious injuries every year — usually to children. The number of acute computer-related injuries increased by 732 percent — from nearly 1,300 to approximately 9,300 injuries per year — according to a study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital from 1994-2006.

The findings are published in the online issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The injury rate increase is nearly double the growth rate of the number of computers in the home, noted study author Lara McKenzie, principal investigator at the center and a faculty member at the Ohio State University College of Medicine.

‘A Huge Number’

It is difficult to put that number in perspective by comparing it to previous years’ injuries or to other types of at-home injuries, McKenzie told TechNewsWorld. For starters, this is the first-ever study of acute injuries caused by computers in the home. Also, it would be misleading to compare this category to, say, accidents in the kitchen, because there are too many variables in each scenario.

That said, “it’s a huge number as it stands,” she remarked.

The most common acute computer-related injuries include lacerations (39 percent) and contusions and abrasions (23 percent). The most common causes of injury are bumping into or getting caught on a part of the computer (37 percent), and falling computer equipment (21 percent), the study found.

More than half of all injuries occurred to the extremities; young children, though, experienced the majority of their injuries to the head — typically when they would pull equipment on top of them, McKenzie said.

Indeed, children younger than 10 years were five times more likely to sustain head injuries than those older than 10 years.

However, the leading cause of injury for both children younger than 5 years and adults 60 years and older was tripping or falling on computer equipment.

Safety Recommendations

More attention should be given to the potential dangers of the home office, according to McKenzie. “There have been many studies of safety issues in the bathroom or kitchen, for instance. The home office, though, is often overlooked.”

Computer owners should take certain precautions, starting with keeping computer equipment away from the edges of desks and out of reach of young children. Installing safety covers on unused electrical outlets, allowing young children to use the computer only with adult supervision, and keeping play areas separate from computer workstations are also advised.

More tips:

  • Situate the computer station away from walkways and against a wall;
  • Position the computer on a stable work surface free of clutter;
  • Organize and secure wires and cords out of the way; and
  • Anchor furniture and heavy computer components to the wall or floor.

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