Assault and laptop batteries

Compared to the huntergathering lifestyle of our forebears, surely the endless hours that the typical modern worker spends in front of a computer pose relatively little risk of injury.

But according to a longitudinal study of emergency room reports in the US, the humble PC may be more dangerous than first thought. According the research, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, an estimated 78,703 patients were treated for ‘acute computer-related injuries’ during the twelve years between January 1994 and December 2006, an average of 6,558 each year.

The most common cause of injury, with 43.4% of incidents, was tripping or falling over a computer, suggesting for a moment that computers are no more dangerous than any other inanimate object.

However, that was followed by injuries caused by “hitting or getting caught on computer equipment” (36.9%). Anyone with a reasonable degree of experience with computers will know that they sometimes need to be hit. But do they understand the dangers?

Fortunately for business IT professionals, the vast majority (93.2%) of computer-related injuries occurred at home. But, with employees increasingly adopting computing practices learned at home into the workplace, this is something to keep an eye on.

On a serious note, people who regularly handle computer equipment and their managers would be wise to observe the precise nature of the most common injuries: 59% of injuries occurred when moving computer equipment, compared to only 6% when using one.

Common causes include tripping over wires and equipment falling from above. And, while the computer literacy of the average citizen is on the increase, the same cannot be said of personal safety in the presence of computers. The number of incidents grew by 732% over the twelve-year period, more than double the growth in computer adoption (309%).

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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