Beware of the tea cosy. . it could put you in hospital

Share this article

THEY cause tempers to fray - and serious injuries to occur. As hard as it may be to believe, food packing is driving people to experience "wrap rage" . . . and as a result, 67,000 people are injured each year trying to peel the cellophane off a packet of sandwiches, open a ready meal or open a ring-pull can.

Six out of ten - or more than 150 people a day - have accidentally stabbed themselves when trying to prise the top off a jar or opening a ready meal with a knife. The survey by Yours Magazine, which conducted a poll of 2000 over-50s, discovered the most common injuries were cuts and bruises to the hand, while the most hated items include anything shrink-wrapped such as cheese, bleach bottles, as well as jars and ring-pull cans.

And although Valery McConnell, editor of the magazine, admits it does seem "daft that packaging which is designed to protect the product ends up damaging the customer instead", food packaging is not alone when it comes to provoking accidents in the home - and you don’t need to be attempting DIY or mowing your lawn to end up with a bizarre injury. Our homes are littered with everyday items all ready to trip us, hurt us, and otherwise land us in hospital.

In fact, the statistics claim throughout the UK, three million people are hospitalised because of an accident in the home - and in Scotland it’s believed around 1000 people are seeking some sort of medical attention every day following a home accident.

So just what are the treacherous items lying in wait to trip us up - quite literally?

Well, there’s the humble tea cosy for one which is posing a threat to human health. Thirty-seven people were injured so seriously by the pot warmers in 1999 that they were admitted to hospital. Most of the injuries were caused by scalding, usually after an attempt to pick up a teapot by its cover rather than the handle, while others followed trips on cosies lying on slippery kitchen tiles or lino.

Then there’s the whole getting dressed issue. Yes, something as simple as putting on your clothes could land you in accident and emergency for the rest of the day.

The number of injuries perpetrated by trousers on their wearers in 2002 - the last year for which such figures were collated by the Home Accident Surveillance System - stood at 5310, while putting on socks, tights or stockings saw 11,788 people taken to hospital. Falls caused by getting stuck during an over-hasty attempt to get dressed were mainly responsible, with trips in messy bedrooms close behind.

However, it’s not always the clothing which is to blame - for example, one case involved a patient injuring their toe when they ran into a wall. They were "wearing socks at the time". But it was footwear which was involved in the majority of clothing accidents - with a total of 379,000 injuries caused by trainers, high heels, sandals, platforms and countless other types of footwear.

Other menaces around the home included hair brushes (1394 incidents), vegetables (14,149) piles of ironing (5248) and cotton wool buds (8569). False teeth caused 933 accidents, clothes baskets 2768, toilet roll holders 287, brillo pads 226, talcum powder 123, and deodorants 431.

Injuries inflicted by furniture are also common with 43,173 people attending hospital after a close encounter with a sofa, while armchairs caused 15,355 accidents and the much-maligned pouffe 16,339.

Of course there are items which you expect to cause injury, such as scissors. One accident report states a woman was carrying a pair in the waistband of her skirt - sharp end up - when she bent down and stabbed herself in the stomach.

The problem, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is that people are more relaxed about safety at home than they are elsewhere.

A spokesman says: "Some items do seem quite bizarre, but the fact is that 2.8 million people end up in hospital every year from an accident, half a million of them under the age of five. It seems odd there are so many more accidents involving trousers than chainsaws, (1148) but everyone has trousers and hardly anyone has chainsaws."

He adds: "People are regulated at work and pay attention when driving. But when they get home they relax and let their guard down."

That was obviously the case for the Exeter College student who was making Italian bread in a breadmaker, but when it clogged the machine he proceeded to pull out the dough with his hands, to free the mixing arm.

However, he didn’t switch it off, and once the clog was unblocked the mixer arm swung into action - and broke his arm in four places. Nine weeks later, the student was asked how he had managed to break his arm while making bread. He felt obliged to demonstrate, so plunged his hand in - and snap went his arm, again.

The RoSPA calls home accidents "the hidden epidemic" but says avoiding them just takes vigilance. "We’re asking people, once they get in, to have a quick look around and check that things are fairly tidy. For the majority of accidents appear to be caused by people’s actions rather than faulty products.

"Underpants, for instance, cause a lot of accidents. You get changed, you get into bed, you may leave your underpants on the floor . . you’ve got a polished floor, you get up in the morning, and crash."

Similarly with slippers, the spokesman says: "You lose the tread on the sole but don’t replace the slippers as readily as you would a normal pair of shoes." Apply such treacherous footwear to a well-buffed linoleum and "the old Carry On scenario", unavoidably ensues.

"Accidents are preventable," he adds. "If people took a little bit of care many of these could be avoided.

"People should tidy up and clear any clutter to reduce their risk of having an accident. If they’re cooking, they should stay off the booze. A little bit of care can prevent many of these accidents."

Fraught with peril

AND then when we set foot outside our front doors, there’s a whole host of other accidental pitfalls awaiting us.

• Sport is, of course, a major source of accidents - and in particular footballers - but there was nothing sporty about player Alan Mullery’s injury. Back in 1964 he had to miss England’s tour of South America after putting his back out while brushing his teeth.

• And in 1975, Alex Stepney, the Manchester United goalkeeper, screamed so loudly at his defence he broke his jaw.

• Dave Beasant, a former Wimbledon keeper, displayed alarmingly poor handling when he severed the tendon in his big toe by dropping a bottle of salad cream on his foot.

• Then there was Darren Barnard (right). The Barnsley man was out of action for five months after damaging his knee ligaments after slipping in a puddle left by his puppy on the kitchen floor.

• Even in the Army bizarre accidents can occur. A Grenadier Guardsman was awarded 75,000 after trying to "windsurf" on the tailgate of a moving lorry after a night’s drinking.

• Three people claimed they suffered whiplash after their car was shunted by a llama at a safari park. Their claim for compensation failed.

• Twenty-three-year-old Rachel Webb suffered an injured leg after a 15-stone man fell on top of it when she was snowboarding in Canada.