Objective.

Injuries in the school environment are a serious public health problem. Injuries occurring within the school shop class are a part of this problem that has received little to no attention. The purpose of our study was to describe the epidemiology of shop class injuries in Utah public schools for the years 1992–1996.

Methods.

Utah statewide grades 7 through 12 school injury data for 1992–1996 were used. The data were generated from a standardized Student Injury Report form completed by school personnel immediately after the occurrence of an injury on school premises that: 1) caused loss of at least one half of a day of school; and/or 2) warranted medical attention and treatment. Shop injuries were defined as injuries that occurred in industrial art classes, vocational educational classes, or automotive classes. To determine the medical outcome and hospital charges associated with shop class injuries, we linked the Student Injury Report database to Utah statewide emergency department (ED) records (available for 1996 only), and to Utah statewide hospital inpatient discharge records (1992–1996).

Results.

During 1992–1996, 14 133 students in grades 7 through 12 were injured at school, of which 1008 (7.1%) were injured during a shop class. The majority (88.4%) of shop injuries involved equipment use. Equipment was misused in 37.9% and malfunctioned in 3.5% of the incidents. The leading injuries reported for shop equipment were lacerations (70.9%), burns (6.0%), and abrasions (4.6%), whereas the leading for nonequipment injuries were lacerations (45.4%), fractures (9.2%), and pain/tenderness (6.7%).

In 1996, 167 students were injured in a shop class and 45 (26.9%) visited an ED as a result of the shop injury. Equipment was a factor in 88.9% of the shop injuries admitted to the ED. Table saws (15.0%), other saws (15.0%), and band saws (12.5%) were involved in nearly one half of the equipment injuries. Equipment was misused in 44.7% and malfunctioned in 10.5% of the incidents resulting in an ED visit. The majority (64.4%) of students sustained an open wound injury. The total ED charges were $16 571.

For 1992–1996, 1008 students were injured in a shop class, 7 (.7%) required inpatient hospital care. Six of the students were injured using a table saw and 1 sustained injuries attributable to automotive cleaning fluid. Equipment was used improperly in 4 of the table saw injuries. Six of the students sustained hand injuries, with 3 suffering a traumatic amputation of a finger or thumb. The total inpatient charges were $26 747.

Conclusion.

School shop injuries have a great impact on students, their families, and schools because of the loss of productivity for the student and the financial impact. Many of the injuries are preventable. These findings stress the need for school administrators, teachers, and students to develop and improve safety policies and practices in school shop classes. In addition, the findings may provide useful information to pediatricians and enable them to better inform patients of risks in school shop classes.

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