We have an emergency, doctor; it's got something to do with a tea cosy ...

Believe it or not, more domestic accidents are caused by such things as food, pyjamas and paper clips than by live wires, says Paul Kingsnorth
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Indy Lifestyle Online
If you thought that eggs were the only thing that got broken making an omelette, think again. Did you know that 14 people were seriously injured in 1993 by mushrooms? In their own homes. Worse still, 40 people were wounded by pieces of cheese and 17 were hospitalised as a direct result of mishandling eggs. Not to mention the 18 serious accidents with cooking oil, the 95 people who injured themselves with wooden spoons and the 103 who suffered at the hands of frying pans. Is nowhere safe?

These and other gems can be gleaned from the Department of Trade and Industry's recent review of accidents in the home during 1993. While it lists every conceivable type of household blunder, it sadly fails to go into details. "Well, we don't know exactly what happened in every case," says a woman from the DTI. "Maybe people got the mushrooms stuck in their throats or something. And if you drop eggs on the floor, I suppose it could be quite easy to slip on them." And the cheese? "Erm... I really can't imagine."

Some of the report's findings are fascinating. For example, it reveals that while only two people were electrocuted by live wires - far fewer than might be expected - a startling 721 were injured by footstools. Similarly, surprisingly few people - nine, to be precise - burnt themselves on the rings of their cookers, while more than three times as many checked into casualty after accidents with their pyjamas. Apparently Christmas trees were responsible for 30 people spending the festive season tucked up with a bed pan and an NHS turkey sandwich. And there's more - eight people injured by paper clips, nine by tea cosies, five by artificial limbs, 15 by ice-creams (cornets or choc-ices? we shall never know).

Perhaps more interesting is what the report chooses not to record. Or rather, the accidents that never happened. For example, no one was injured by their handbag in 1993. Not a single person. Even those the worse for drink grappled with those tricky "pressurised beer taps" without coming to harm.

If this exhaustive exercise seems a questionable use of government time and money, rest assured - it has a purpose. "It may seem quite amusing to you," says a DTI spokeswoman, "but it's supposed to prevent accidents from happening in the home. You see, we produce this report for our Consumer Safety Department, and if they identify an upward trend in any particular type of accident, they can launch a safety campaign." Any examples? "Well, our latest campaign is about ladder safety. We've distributed leaflets to DIY stores all over the country."

The DTI won't say how much this annual exercise costs, nor whether the frequent "consumer safety campaigns" that spring from it actually prevent accidents. Presumably the knowledge that 398 people managed to fall off the toilet two years ago will make us more cautious. We will all be more careful when drinking through straws, for fear of ending up in the same state as the 10 people who suffered doing just that. And the sensible among us will stay indoors during the autumn months, in case we join the 31 careless souls seriously damaged by leaves.Most of these accidents were self-inflicted; a little more care in our everyday lives would give our overstretched emergency services more time to devote to serious cases. So everyone, everywhere - a little more caution, please. And if you were one of the 20 people injured by sheep - don't do it again, it's illegal.