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PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Dr Elizabeth Towner, senior lecturer in community child health at the University of Newcastle, has been appointed as professor of child health at the new Centre for Child and Adolescent Health, a joint initiative of the Universities of the West of England and Bristol. She takes up her new post in July.

Ms Elena Santiago Cid took office as Director-General of CENELEC, the body responsible for European standards for electrical products, on 1 January 2004. Among her priorities, Ms Santiago has already stated that she would like to strengthen the relationship with the other two European standards organisation, CEN and ETSI, as well as with the European Commission.

REVISED GENERAL PRODUCT SAFETY DIRECTIVE COMES INTO FORCE

The revised General Product Safety Directive (GSPD) came into force in the European Union on 15 January 2004. It provides controls the safety of all consumer products (except food), and sets safety requirements for consumer products such as sports and playground equipment, child care articles, lighters, and most household products such as textiles and furniture. It is supposed to strengthen consumer protection by reinforcing existing product safety rules with new obligations. The European Commission receives around 150 notifications of dangerous products annually, most often associated with risks of choking and suffocation, electrocution and fires. David Byrne, European Union Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, noted that for the first time manufacturers have the legal obligation to inform authorities if a product is unsafe. These are recalled and taken off the market. Also for the first time the Commission can initiate recalls and provisional bans to assure the same level of protection across the European Union. The revised GPSD clarifies the products that are covered by general product safety rules—in future the rules will apply to all consumer products, including products “migrating” from the professional sector to the consumer market and products used or made available to consumers by service providers such as beauty centres and hotels; improves the requirements and reinforces the responsibilities of producers and distributors, including the responsibility to recall dangerous products when necessary; and increases transparency, which obliges producers and distributors to inform authorities and collaborate with them if products are found to be dangerous. It also gives consumers the right to know which products are dangerous and what action has been taken. The GPSD also enhances market surveillance and collaboration between national surveillance authorities, including the establishment of a European Product Safety Network, lays down more stringent criteria for assessing product safety, and simplifies the rules for rapid intervention at Community level to remove dangerous products from the market.

GUATEMALA CASUALTIES JUMP

Traffic injuries increased in Guatemala between 2002 and 2003 by 10% but fatalities almost doubled in a year (794 fatalities in 2002 to 1342 in 2003). That is one death per 565 registered vehicles. Edgar Mendoza president of the Rotary Committee for Accident Prevention acknowledged accidents are the second highest cause of death in Guatemala. Resources for enforcement are seen as particularly inadequate among other barriers to prevention.

CYCLE SEAT STANDARD

In December 2003, CEN members adopted a new European standard for child cycle seats. The standard covers the most important risks: the protection of the spokes, the attachment of the seat to the bicycle and the height of the backrest.

CRACKDOWN ON DROWSY DRIVING

New Jersey lawmakers and highway safety advocates hope the state’s new “drowsy driving” law—the first in the US—will be a wake-up call to drivers who hit the road when they’re tired and cause more than 100 000 accidents per year nationwide. The law, which took effect in September aims specifically at fatal accidents involving sleepy motorists—estimated at about 1500 a year nationwide—by allowing such drivers to be charged with vehicular homicide. That offence is punishable in New Jersey by up to 10 years in prison and a $100 000 fine. The new measure defines drivers as “knowingly fatigued” if they have been awake more than 24 consecutive hours. It amends the state’s previous vehicular homicide law to say that driving in this condition constitutes recklessness, although it does not permit police to pull over drivers who are merely seen yawning behind the wheel.

AUSTRALIAN TRAVEL RISKS

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released figures on tourist deaths in Australia and deaths by Australians travelling. While Australia is one of the safest places in the world for tourists about 370 visitors die each year. With five million short term visits a year the death rate is 0.01%. The major causes were diseases of the circulatory system (41%, mostly people over 55) and external forces, such as motor vehicle collisions and drowning (30%, mostly people under 35 years). Of 2444 tourist deaths in the past six years, 22 were the result of assault, 283 motor vehicle incidents, 98 drownings, 45 were suicides. The ABS calculates that of the three million Australian journeys overseas in 2002 there were 681 deaths with research indicating that about 18% are the result of “accidents”, 4% are murders, 4% drug overdose, and 35% from heart disease.

CHILD SAFETY WEEK DATES

The Child Accident Prevention Trust, organisers of the UK’s annual Child Safety Week, has announced that this year’s theme will be Check it, don’t chance it. The Week, the 11th since its establishment, takes place between from 21–27 June, with sponsorship from five government departments, McDonald’s, and Bitrex. Further information can be found on the CAPT website, www.capt.org.uk.

CHANGE TO US LIGHTERS SAFETY STANDARD

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that the child safety mechanisms on cigarette lighters have saved many lives and prevented thousands of fires. The mechanisms are required on all novelty and disposable lighters, and on low cost, refillable lighters. From March 2004, refillable lighters with an import value of $2.25 or less will be required to be child resistant—up from the original import value of $2 or less established in 1993. Fire deaths associated with children playing with lighters dropped dramatically since the standard became effective in July 1994: from 230 in 1994 to 130 in 1998. Children under age 5 accounted for 170 of the deaths in 1994 and 40 of the deaths in 1998. In 1994, there were 11 100 residential fires associated with children playing with lighters. By 1998, that number declined to 6100 fires. The import value increase is based on an 8% increase in the Producer Price Index (for Miscellaneous Fabricated Parts, which includes lighters) rounded to the nearest 25 cents. The lighters covered by the federal safety standard were determined to be the types of lighters most accessible to young children.

AUSTRALIAN HANDGUN BUYBACK

In the final weeks of its winter session, the Australian federal parliament passed legislation to fund a national gun buyback. The National Handgun Buyback Act 2003 sets asides funds for the federal government to participate with the states in a national program aimed at removing from the community handguns that are not used in genuine sports shooting. The buyback was announced in late 2002 at a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments and was a response to a shooting incident in a university which left two dead and five wounded. The agreement is to prohibit the import, possession, and use by sporting shooters of small concealable handguns, of handguns above .38 calibre, and of those with a capacity exceeding 10 rounds. The buyback has operated since 31 December 2003 and compensates those surrendering handguns, parts, and accessories that are now prohibited. The federal government meets two thirds of the cost and the states one third and expects to spend US$52 million.

INJURY PREVENTION COURSE

The short course on injury prevention organised by the Child Accident Prevention Trust and the University of Newcastle will take place in Birmingham, UK, with the residential sessions during October 2004 and February 2005. Full details and application forms are available through the CAPT website, www.capt.org.uk. The course will have new tutors this year with Gail Errington from University of Newcastle and Mima Cattan from Leeds Metropolitan University taking over from Pam Laidman and Andy Benson who had run the course since its inception.

SIDE AIRBAGS WITH HEAD PROTECTION SAVE LIVES

Side airbags that include head protection are reducing deaths by about 45% among drivers of passenger cars struck on the driver’s side, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s August 2003 edition of Status Report. Side airbags that protect the chest and abdomen, but not the head, also are reducing deaths, but they are less effective (about 10%). These are the major findings of an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study of the real-world effectiveness of side airbags. It is the first such study to estimate the effectiveness of this type of occupant protection. Each year more than 9000 passenger vehicle occupants die in side impacts in the US. Head injuries are a leading cause. The new research findings mean the toll should be reduced in the future. To estimate side airbag effectiveness in on-the-road crashes, Institute researchers used data from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System and General Estimates System to compute the relative risk of dying for drivers of 1997–2002 car models with and without side airbags when their vehicles were struck on the driver’s side. Besides computing the overall effectiveness estimates—45% fatality risk reduction for drivers of cars with head-protecting side airbags, 11% reduction with torso-only side airbags—the researchers broke down the findings into more specific results. Researchers found that side airbags with head protection reduce the risk of death for both male and female drivers over a wide span of ages. Significant protective effects were found for drivers of both large and small cars. Visit website www.hwysafety.org/srpdfs/sr3808.pdf for further information.

TOOLKIT FOR DEVELOPERS

The epidemiology branch of the South Australian Department of Human Services has developed a proactive tool in its work on environmental changes to improve safety. Officers have developed a seminar program and associated 27 page guide for developers to help minimise the creation of hazards. The document Safety at the Interface: Making sure your development project doesn’t create hazards for the surrounding community is intended to apply the principles of risk management to decisions that are outside the scope of particular standards. It includes, among other things, sections on “Developing a Safety Insight”, “The Solutions Toolkit”, and “Tricks of the Trade” and there is a helpful series of “do” and “don’t” photographs. The publication is available from the Epidemiology Branch, PO Box 6, Rundle Mall, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.

CHANGES IN SAFE COMMUNITIES NETWORK

The first issue of Safe Community Weekly News reported that as the European Safety Communities Network (ESCON) prepared to mark seven years of successful network, campaigning and development activity, Dr Katharina Purtscher, chairman since ESCON’s establishment in 1995, stepped down from December 2003. Yousif Rahim took over from January 2004 as chairman of ESCON Board of Directors. As the Safe Community concept is expanded to cover more communities in Europe, the ESCON will be a the sole focus on providing expert advice on community safety promotion to policymakers, administrators, researchers, and others working for community safety promotion in European Countries. ESCON has played a key role in supporting the development of Safe Communities in many communities in Europe over the last decade. In particular, ESCON will encourage safety researchers to focus on the safety promotion as an issue for the whole setting of Europe. ESCON will be a network for communities working with the Safe Community concept, and those whom are studying the safety promotion issues in Europe. With his professional experience in the field of injury prevention/Safety Promotion with Harstad/Norwegian Safe Communities and present role as a Coordinator for the Norwegian Safety Promotion Centre, Yousif Rahim is well placed to continue and further develop Dr Purtscher’s work. Contributions to Safe Community Weekly News should be sent to Yousif Rahim at rahimnorsafety.no.

HASS/LASS DATABASE MOVES

Inquiries using data from the home and leisure accident surveillance systems that collected information from 18 hospitals across the UK until its closure was announced by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in May 2003 have been taken over by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) with DTI funding. Contact infocentrerospa.com for analyses. The annual HASS/LASS reports for 2000, 2001, and 2002 have been published by the DTI following a long delay because of computer problems. They are available through www.dti.gov.uk/homesafetynetwork/gh_stats.htm.

There is no sign of any replacement for the HASS/LASS systems, despite the fact that the DTI minister noted when announcing the closure that the Department of Health would be providing similar information.

AUSTRALIAN GUN DEATHS HALVED IN 10 YEARS

Guns killed more than 5000 people in Australia in the past decade. Nine out of 10 of the victims were male and most of them killed themselves. The number of deaths caused by firearms dropped almost 50% between 1991 and 2001, with the biggest yearly fall in deaths coming after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre. A report by the Australian Institute of Criminology released in January found that the number of deaths caused by guns each year dropped to 333 in 2001 from 629 in 1991. The biggest single form of firearm death was suicide, accounting for 3930 fatalities out of a total of 5083 studied. The number fell from 505 in 1991 to 261 in 2001. Homicides dropped to 47 in 2001 from 84 in 1991, accidental deaths fell from 29 to 18, while other forms of firearm deaths slipped to seven from 11. The biggest drop in deaths followed Port Arthur, when Martin Bryant murdered 35 people with a military-style weapon. After the massacre, tough gun laws were enacted across Australia, specifically targeting military-style weapons, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of weapons being destroyed. In 1996, 521 people died from gun inflicted wounds, while in 1997 this dropped to 437. State and federal governments agreed in late 2002 on new laws aimed at restricting access to handguns. Last July import controls were increased. Hunting rifles consistently accounted for the largest number of deaths, followed by shotguns, while the use of handguns has increased. The number of times a hunting rifle was implicated in a death dropped to 76 in 2001 from 282 in 1991. Shotgun deaths dropped from 133 to 54 but handgun deaths increased from 29 in 1991 to 49 in 2001.

TAIWAN SEMINAR

The 4th Seminar and Workshop on Safety Promotion in Taiwan was held in January. The workshop aimed to promote the Safe Community Program in Taiwan, share the experiences from four different communities, and educate the community workers with promotion strategies. Over 50 people attended the meeting, including Dr Ying-Wei Wang, Deputy Director General, Bureau of Health Promotion, Department of Health, who promised that the administrative department will support the Safe Community Program, encouraged all of the participants to continue their work of safety promotion and wished the four featured communities’ success on achieving the goal of being designated in 2005. Dr Lu Pai, Associate Professor of National Defense Medical Center, National Defense University, served as the professional consultant for Safe Community programs. She has been engaged in injury prevention for 16 years and continued the work as well as developing the Safety Promotion Program in Taiwan. She lectured on all levels of safety promotion and safety promotion strategies (extracted from Safe CommunitiesWeekly News, issue 2, January 2004).

Acknowledgments

Contributors to these news and notes include Anna Cronin de Chavez, Anara Guard, Peter Jacobsen, Barry Pless, Ian Scott, and Amy Zierler. Michael Hayes has edited the contributions. Items for future issues, including calendar entries, should be sent to Michael Hayes at the Child Accident Prevention Trust, 18–20 Farringdon Lane, London EC1R 3HA, UK, fax +44 (0)20 7608 3674, email mhcapt.org.uk as soon as possible.

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