Road Management & Engineering Journal
Road Management & Engineering Journal
August 1, 1998
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Injuries Associated with Hazards Involving Motor Vehicle Batteries

(This article is a reproduction of a July 1997 Research Note published by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.)

NHTSA's National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) recently examined data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) on cases involving injuries associated with motor vehicle batteries. NEISS data on persons treated in hospital emergency rooms for these injuries were examined to determine the action or activity involved in producing the injury, the injury diagnosis and severity, the body region most often injured, and the age of the injured person.

CPSC's NEISS collects data on a nationally representative sample of consumer product-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms. NEISS is a 3-level system consisting of surveillance of emergency room injuries, follow-back telephone interviews with injured persons or witnesses, and comprehensive investigations with injured persons and/or witnesses. NEISS obtains data from a sample of 91 of the 6,127 hospitals nationwide with at least six beds that provide emergency care on a continuing 24-hour basis. The data on injuries associated with motor vehicle batteries were obtained through an agreement between NHSTA and CPSC to collect data on injuries with specific motor vehicle hazards that are non-crash related.

During the 1-year period October 1, 1993 through September 30, 1994, data from 134 cases of injuries associated with motor vehicle batteries were obtained from the NEISS. Based upon these 134 cases, an estimated 7,051 persons were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries resulting from an activity involving motor vehicle batteries nationwide during the 12-month study period. The types of injuries sustained can be described by five general categories: battery explosions, chemical burns and/or contamination resulting from contact with battery acid, muscle strains and/or crush-type injuries associated with lifting or dropping the battery, and electrical shock from contacting the battery cables and/or posts. Persons injured as a result of battery explosions, the type of injury of particular interest to NHSTA, comprised the largest of the five general categories. An estimated 2,280 persons (32% of 7,051 motor vehicle battery injuries) were injured as a direct result of a motor vehicle battery explosion. Tables 1 through 5 provide additional details on the persons injured as a result of motor vehicle battery explosion during the period October 1, 1993 through September 30, 1994 by the action which produced the injury, the region of the body most severely injured, the injury diagnosis, the injury severity, and the age of the person injured, respectively. (The percentages may not add up to 100% in every table due to rounding.)

Thirty-one percent (31%) of the persons injured by battery explosions were charging the battery (702 persons injured), as shown in Table 1. More than one-fourth (26%) of the injuries were associated with an activity involving the battery cables (replacing, securing, or tightening). An almost equal number of persons were injured as a result of "jump starting" the battery (19%) or checking/adding fluid (19%). Unfortunately, it is not known what led to the injury for about 5% of the persons injured.

TABLE 1
Estimated Number of Persons Injured by MV Battery Explosions by Injury Producing Action October 1993 - Spetember 1994

Injury Producing Action Estimated No. of Persons Injured %Total
Charging Battery 702 31%
Replacing, Securing, or Tightening Cables 581 26%
Jump Starting Battery 702 19%
Checking Fluid Level and/or Adding Water 442 19%
Unknown 111 5%
Total 2,280 100%

The majority (62%) of the 2,280 persons estimated to have been injured by motor vehicle battery explosions were diagnosed as having chemical burns [Table 2]. Twenty-one percent (21%) of the persons injured were diagnosed with lacerations. Almost three-fourths (72%) of those injured suffered an eye injury [Table 3]. Unfortunately, a sizeable portion (43%) of the persons injured were diagnosed as having a serious injury [Table 4]. None of the 2,280 persons injured, however, were hospitalized. This may be misleading, as 80% of the persons injured (43% + 37%) were diagnosed as having a serious or moderate injury [Table 4], indicating that while hospitalization may not have been warranted, further medical treatment would probably be necessary.

TABLE 2
Estimated Number of Persons Injured by MV Battery Explosions by Injury Diagnosis October 1993 - Spetember 1994

Diagnosis Estimated No. of Persons Injured %Total
Chemical Burns 1,421 62%
Contusion or Abrasion 185 8%
Laceration 475 21%
Conjunctivitis 199 9%
Total 2,280 100%

TABLE 3
Estimated Number of Persons Injured by MV Battery Explosions by Most Injured Body Region October 1993 - Spetember 1994

Body Part Injured Estimated No. of Persons Injured %Total
Eye 1,648 72%
Face 501 22%
All Other (Including Head, Hands, Fingers) 131 6%
Total 2,280 100%

TABLE 4
Estimated Number of Persons Injured by MV Battery Explosions by Injury Severity October 1993 - Spetember 1994

Injury Severity Estimated No. of Persons Injured %Total
Minor 464 20%
Moderate 844 37%
Serious 972 43%
Total 2,280 100%

As might be expected, almost all of the persons injured (2,246 of the 2,280 persons injured, or 98%) were between the ages of 15-59 [Table 5].

TABLE 5
Estimated Number of Persons Injured by MV Battery Explosions by Age October 1993 - Spetember 1994

Age of Person Estimated No. of Persons Injured %Total
0 - 14 Years 34 2%
15 - 29 Years 744 33%
30 - 44 Years 834 37%
45 - 59 Years 668 28%
Over 60 Years 0 --
Total 2,280 100%



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