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Unintentional fatal injuries arising from unpaid work at home


Objective: Unpaid work in and around the home is a common and potentially high risk activity, yet there is limited information about the circumstances surrounding resulting injuries. This study aimed to describe circumstances surrounding fatal injuries resulting from home duties activities, in order to identify and prioritise areas for prevention.

Design and setting: Coroners’ reports on all unintentional deaths in Australia from 1989–92 inclusive were inspected to identify deaths of interest. Rates were calculated using population data and incorporating measures of time engaged in particular home duties activities.

Results: There were 296 home duties deaths over the four year period. Most (83%) deaths were of males, and males had 10 times the risk of fatal injury compared with females. The most common activities resulting in fatal injuries were home repairs, gardening, and car care. The highest risk activities (deaths per million persons per year per hour of activity) were home repairs (49), car care (20), home improvements (18), and gardening (16). Being hit by inadequately braced vehicles during car maintenance, falls from inadequately braced ladders, contact with fire and flames while cooking, and contact with electricity during maintenance were the most common injury scenarios.

Conclusions: Fatal injury of persons engaged in unpaid domestic work activities is a significant cause of death. Use of activity specific denominator data allows appropriate assessment of the degree of risk associated with each activity. The recurrence of similar circumstances surrounding many independent fatal incidents indicates areas where preventative interventions might be usefully targeted.

  • fatal injury
  • home duties
  • unpaid work
  • risk measures

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