School of Population Health

New research reveals serious DIY risk to men over 50

Image ladder home renovations risks

Men aged 50-plus are putting their quality of life on the line by not assessing the risks before doing home improvement projects, according to the new research led by Katherine Schaffarczyk, a Master by Research student at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine (SPHCM) and nurse educator at Westmead Hospital in Sydney.  
Nearly half of all hospitalisations were the result of a ladder slipping or collapsing when men were doing general home maintenance, gardening and cleaning. Two-thirds of the patients received multiple injuries and one-quarter suffered severe trauma.
Mrs Schaffarczyk examined the data from 86 incidents at Westmead Hospital involving men aged 50-plus suffering a non-occupational fall at home.
The research highlighted the need for community injury prevention campaigns about the dangers of falls from ladders from seemingly low-risk everyday activities and more point of sale advice.
“Many men overestimate their abilities, particularly as they get older and don’t want to stop doing the things they’ve always done,” said Mrs Schaffarczyk. “But the sad reality is these incidents can lead to serious injuries that have long-lasting impacts on the lives of men and their families.”
The main factors leading to the fall included complacency, lack of assessment of risk factors such as footwear, the surface the ladder was placed on, ensuring someone was home, and recognising their physical limitations.
Westmead Hospital trauma director, Associate Professor Jeremy Hsu said the department regularly treats people with serious injuries from falls at home.
“We know a lot about the frequency of falls and how serious they are but what we wanted to know is why they are occurring and how we can prevent them,” Associate Professor Hsu said. “What makes this study unique is it examines the why, not just the what and how.”
"Falls are a major public health concern, yet simple safety measures such as doing a risk assessment before doing home maintenance and not climbing a ladder when home alone can help prevent them and serious injury," said Dr Sally Nathan, from SPHCM and co-author on the research paper.
The research identified several preventative measures to explore, including safety equipment such as gutter hooks to be included with the sale of all ladders.
Tips to avoid a fall:

  • Stop to assess the risks before doing any home maintenance, gardening and cleaning
  • Never climb a ladder or do other risky behaviour while home alone
  • Wear proper safety equipment including non-slip shoes and well-fitting clothing
  • Upgrade your equipment, especially ladders, and always follow the manufacturer’s advice

The research, published in Injury, was conducted by the SPHCM and Westmead Hosptial.

Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

Contact Name : 
Katherine Schaffarczyk, UNSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine (SPHCM)