Most people feel safe at home, but statistically it’s not the safest place to be, at least in terms of being injured (here injury includes not only trauma but poisoning, but if we restrict it to trauma probably little is changed). Here’s one of CDC’s “Quickstat” looks at the percentage distribution of injuries by place of occurrence, as reported in a cluster sample of the US population (the National Health Interview Survey). The years covered are 2004 to 2007:
Here’s how the NHIS defined these places: home includes both inside and outside the home; recreation area includes recreation or sports facility, recreation area, lake, river, or pool; street includes highway, sidewalk, or parking lot; commercial area includes industrial, construction, farm, trade, or service area; school includes school, child care center, or preschool; other includes hospital or residential institution, other public building, or other place not specified.
There is a lot of injury occurring in our communities every year, most of it minor, but adding up to big numbers: in excess of 30 million a year. The events reported here by this sample of the US population was a bit more serious. Subjects were asked to report injuries in the previous 5 weeks that required medical attendance, so these weren’t just little scrapes and bruises. Still, if you think about it, it’s not too surprising most the most likely place for them to occur is in the home, where here it’s not just inside the house or apartment but includes the back porch, outside stairs, driveway, garage, etc. These places are full of slippery walks, throw rugs, stuff left on the stairs to trip on, a kitchen full of sharp instruments or a garage or basement full of dangerous tools and people spend a lot of time there doing a tremendously broad range of activities, many of which have the potential for causing injury to people spanning a huge age range.
Many of the things that can hurt you at work can also hurt you in the home. Most people work hard at home and do the same things that cause injury in the workplace, like lifting things or using something that can hurt them. You can burn yourself in the kitchen, slash yourself opening a clamshell package, trip over a toy left on the landing or hurt yourself doing any of a number of physically demanding task, like making a bed. Then there’s child care. I currently have a nasty back problem I brought it on myself by tossing my grandchild in the air. What thrilled him was the danger. I wouldn’t be allowed to do that at a day care center.
As an aside, tossing toddlers in the air seems to be a male impulse. Mrs. R. says she’s never seen a woman do this and I admit I have an irresistible impulse whenever the little guy toddles in the front door. I have no idea why. And since my back really hurts, I’m usually sorry. But I’ve hurt my back exactly the same way in his last three visits. Not very smart of me.
But we often aren’t smart on our own territory. We feel more secure. We also spend a lot time there. And we are more likely to get hurt there than anywhere else.