NSW: Public safety warning on treadmills

Published: 
9 Jan 2013

Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe today issued a reminder of the dangers of treadmills to young children.

Mr Stowe said anyone looking to fulfil New Year’s resolutions to improve health and fitness should be aware of the potential injury risks treadmills pose for children in the home.

“Always keep young children away from fitness machines and make sure they cannot reach any moving part,” he said.

The ACI Statewide Burn Injury Service reported from 1 January 2011 to 1 January 2013, 74 patients sustained a burn involving a treadmill. Three were adults and the rest children with an average age of 3.5 years.

More than 80 percent sustained a burn to either one or both hands, 75 percent did not have adequate first aid administered and 91pecent of the injuries occurred in a domestic residence.

Hospitals in NSW see about 40 patients per year and the ACI Service reported an increased number of burns in October 2012 with eight patients presenting for treatment at the Burns Unit at the Children's Hospital at Westmead.

Of these, five patients required surgery and will require long term scar management.

Associate Professor John Harvey, Head of The Children’s Hospital at Westmead’s Burns Unit, said he fully endorses the warning from Fair Trading.

“We frequently see treadmill injuries in the toddler age group,” he said.

“These include crush injuries to the hands and fingers, fractures and most commonly serious friction burns to hands and fingers.

These burns often require skin grafting surgery and long term treatment to maintain the normal function of the hand and fingers.

“Keeping children well away from treadmills is the most effective way to prevent these injuries.”

Injuries happen when a baby or toddler moves to the back of the treadmill, where they are out of sight. They either touch the moving belt or get their hand caught under it, causing friction burns.

All new treadmills in NSW must carry a prominent warning sticker to alert treadmill users to keep children away from machines in use.

Treadmill Tips:
  • Use treadmills away from young children or use safety barriers, like a playpen, to keep children away from treadmills.
  • Unplug treadmills when not in use.
  • Store treadmills away from children’s reach.
  • Always supervise older children using a treadmill.
  • Choose treadmills with protective covers and a safety stop switch.

One child was just two years old when she accidentally touched the moving belt of the family’s new treadmill.

In just a matter of seconds she had suffered friction burns so intense they removed tissue from the inside of three of her fingers and left a burn across the inside of her palm.

This child needed treatment including a skin graft operation, frequent bandaging, a splint and weekly visits to hospital.

Almost one year later the treatment was continuing. She may need plastic surgery in the future to straighten her fingers.

The accident occurred in seconds.

A Fair Trading Treadmills and kids don’t mix poster is useful for community, childcare, health and medical centres. Order them free from www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au.

You can follow Fair Trading on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/FairTradingNSW and Twitter at: http://twitter.com/NSW_FairTrading

Contact details

Media contacts: 9338 8916 or 0423 606 394 (Fair Trading) or Children’s Hospital Westmead Public Relations for Dr Harvey on 02 9845 3364.

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