The burden and pattern of injuries related to consumer products in Australia: Challenges and opportunities for improving injury surveillance and prevention

By Dr Catherine Niven

Improving Injury Surveillance

The Jamieson Trauma Institute (JTI) are well known for our work in injuries related to consumer products like e-scooters, but what you may not know is that our JTI/AusHSI team have been working in the broad product safety space for over 10 years!

It commenced with the first Australian study to assess the feasibility of using injury data for product safety surveillance, and the team has since been working on innovative approaches to improve surveillance. Our research has developed methodologies for extracting, classifying and integrating injury data and regulatory data to identify unsafe products and risk factors, and methods for prioritising product safety hazards based on three criteria: injury frequency, severity and causality. Future work intends to explore the linking of disparate product safety data such as regulatory data, health data, complaint data and product review data to create an intelligence platform to assess public health risks more precisely.

Our recent focus on child product safety has identified significant increases in product safety recalls for children’s products in Australia with high levels of non-compliance with mandated safety requirements. The research also monitored injuries associated with regulated children’s products, identified the extent of consumer product involvement in paediatric injuries and identified leading classes of unsafe children’s products and related injuries. This work has informed a suite of policy, practice and reform priorities for child injury prevention.

Strong collaborative approaches provide key opportunities to advance product safety. We are one of the founding members of the multi-agency Consumer Product Injury Research Advisory Group (CPIRAG) which was established in 2011 and has grown to include wide-ranging representation. In addition to identifying new product safety hazards, and sharing injury data, evidence and expertise, CPIRAG regularly informs policy development through collaborative submissions to government and advocates for injury prevention initiatives.

The greatest challenge lies in the pandemic-fuelled growth in online retail, with products sourced worldwide with varying degrees of safety. Never has there been a more urgent need for a national injury surveillance system in Australia and to harness the increasingly available digital technologies to rapidly respond to emerging product safety hazards. Our team is working at the forefront of injury surveillance and linked data techniques to provide the evidence to inform safer product design and use, and regulatory responses such as product safety recalls, bans and standards.