I suffered a bit of a health and safety blunder at home a few weeks ago…

My better half and I recently bought and moved into a new home and, being DIY types, this has meant all manner of home improvement is taking up most of our spare time.

We’ve obviously left the specialist work for the pros – renovating the en-suite bathroom and laying new flooring, for example. However, other tasks, such as painting, or gutting and redesigning the garden and entertainment area, have been tackled with enthusiastic levels of DIY gusto.

My little “man cave” features a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf, which is ideal because I have a – let’s say – contentious collection of books and magazines that just happened to need such a home… And so it was that I took on the task of reinforcing the structure; a simple job of drilling some holes and affixing the bookshelf to the wall with six L-brackets and some rawl bolts and screws.

That was until one of the bolts got stuck in the wall after I hadn’t drilled deeply enough for it to fit snugly. I surmised that brute force and ignorance was the best solution, so my trusty hammer was enlisted to do the dirty work. When that plan didn’t work I left the hammer atop of the ladder and took a break.

When I came back I decided to finish the rest of the bolts and then try again to solve the problem. So I picked up the ladder to move it to the next bolt – and I’m sure you can guess what happened next…

Yip – hammer to the head!

The instant I raised the ladder I knew I had made a mistake – but by then it was too late. With a gash to the scalp and a river of blood flowing down my face, the day’s DIY activities had come to an end.

Some subsequent reading on head and brain injury revealed some scary statistics.

According to the South African Medial Journal, traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of mortality in persons under the age of 45. Population-based studies in developing countries, including South Africa, suggest even higher rates. A study in 2007 found injury-related mortality rates in South Africa to be six-times higher than that of the global rate.

The United Kingdom (UK) brain injury association, Headway, reports that admissions in the UK for acquired brain injury have increased by ten percent since 2005/6. It adds that men are 1,6-times more likely than women to be admitted for head injury. However, female head injury admissions have risen 24 percent since 2005/6, it states.

Across the pond, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that TBI contributed to about 30 percent of all injury deaths in the United States of America and that, between 2007 and 2013, rates of TBI-related visits to hospital increased by 47 percent (although hospitalisation rates decreased by 2,5 percent and death rates decreased by five percent). Falls and being struck by, or against, an object were the two leading causes of TBI.

All these statistics make me very thankful indeed that I got lucky… I didn’t suffer concussion, nor did I need stitches, and the wound healed quickly. The knock to my ego – as the editor of a health and safety publication – and the lesson learnt still linger, though.

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