There’s a publication out there that deserves to knock Fifty Shades of Grey off the bestseller lists. Unlike the EL James book, it’s not only explicit and rude - it’s breathtakingly funny. This is a government publication. Oh yes.
It's not written by a little civil servant man in a windowless room, but a whole team who used to work in Teddington. It was updated every year until 2002 or so, and had a foreword by a government Minister. Best of all, it used to be free; you didn’t even have to pay for the postage and packing. But what with the recession and all that, they stopped it.
Now we know, this blog isn't exactly business related, but we just had to tell you about it in case you needed some cheering up during office hours.
If you want to download a copy, you don't need to read it from cover to cover. You can dip into it whenever you have a free moment to unearth yet another golden nugget of information, even funnier and sexually bizarre than the previous one. It's impossible to put down, but you can't find it in Waterstones or on Amazon.
It's called "Working for a Safer World - the Annual Report of the Home and Leisure Accident Surveillance System". It's absolutely brilliant, although we admit the title isn't very catchy. For short, those in the know call it the HASS (Home Accident Surveillance System) or the LASS (Leisure Accident Surveillance System. You can still read the old reports on the website. We have to say that after a bit of investigation our preference is for the HASS, because it reveals war people do to themselves in and around their own homes, with objects of varying sizes and dimensions. Keep reading.
We know that accidents in the home are a very grave issue, and that around six million people attend A&E every year. Probably more, now GPs don’t do weekends and go off caravanning and playing golf instead. Some of those visits will be very distressing and some result in death. But if we can share the more trivial aspects of this publication with you, we know you too will fall about laughing (without injury, hopefully).
The methodology is unbelievable, so keep up and try and imagine what it must’ve been like working in the team in Teddington - all with the added bonus of a gold plated civil service pension. The HASS researchers specifically, measured the number of accidents each year that involved consumer products. They went to selected hospitals across the country, presumably with a clipboard, and chatted to the person who’d been injured. They got details of the accident itself including the circumstances, and the exact involvement of the product or article. Government funded an’ all.
Baby changing is apparently fraught with difficulty with 658 people being harmed by the baby changing mat and 256 by a child's potty
They only used specially trained interviewers (trained not to giggle or judge) who did this at peak times in A&E, and the resulting HASS report was a synopsis of their findings each year. It’s a sobering thought that you’re nearly as likely to die in a road traffic accident as you are dying in an accident in the home (1 in 13,000). That's ten times more likely than being murdered and nearly twenty times more likely than dying in an air crash. And just in case you wondered, you have a 1 in 10 million chance of dying as a result of a lightning strike, and a 1 in 14 million chance of winning the National Lottery with a single ticket. Yes, we need to be far more careful in the home, but . . .
HASS helpfully breaks down the accident figures into product/article categories. To save you the bother of finding downloading a back copy, we’ve selected just a few of our favourites from a single year. Each is a figure for the number of people in the UK, not who had an accident, but whose injury was sufficient enough for them to visit the A&E department of the hospital. Actual accidents involving these products will therefore be significantly higher.
The sneaking suspicion of sexual gratification is hard to ignore. It's difficult to consider that 384 people had an accident with a thermos flask, 311 with a drinking straw, 183 with a salt, pepper or mustard pot and 110 with a chopstick, without these thoughts surfacing. There are hundreds more examples, but two others that are among our favourites include 402 with a "cork or bung only" and 183 with a lollipop stick. What are people doing to themselves?
As you continue to read it becomes fairly obvious that the bathroom is a minefield. Baby changing is apparently fraught with difficulty with 658 people being harmed by the baby changing mat and 256 by a child's potty. But it's that question of unusual sexual practices that pops up again when you read that 951 accidents were due to a “bath brush, loofah or toilet roll holder” and yet only 219 involved a marital aid such as a vibrator. Personally we’d rather admit to an accident with a vibrator than a loofah, especially when talking to someone with a clipboard. Less reasoning can be applied to the 476 accidents concerning cotton wool.
You might think that sitting down to write a letter or do your accounts is a safe bet, but it isn't. 293 people were injured by an eraser, the same number that hurt themselves with blu-tack. Elastic bands accounted for 402 visits to casualty and 37 were injured by their calculator. Doing what? Getting dressed is also dangerous as the following people will be able to attest; 9,639 accidents involved socks, tights or stockings, 3,695 involved trousers, 2,890 involved wellington boots, 1,280 involved a cardigan or pullover, 713 involved a button and 18 involved swimwear.
Yet more defy any logic whatsoever. How can 311 people hurt themselves badly enough with a swing top bin to have to visit hospital? What were 274 people doing with a tablecloth that could possibly hurt? Or 238 by an oven glove?
We don’t usually agree that our hard earned taxes should be used on frivolous public sector activity when hospitals and schools could do with more money. But surely the HASS research should be reinstated if not to give us all some fascinating insights into the lives of the British public. In fact it should be widened. We don’t just want to know that 55 people had an accident with their pet fish and 37 with a tea cosy in one year alone . . . we want to know how.