Contact with objects leading to injury is the second most common cause of hospitalised injury in Australia (after falls). Falling or moving objects, hard or sharp objects, household or industrial equipment and intruding foreign bodies are all potential causes of injury in this category.

In 2019–20, harmful contact with objects resulted in:

77,000 hospitalisations

300 per 100,000 population

120 deaths

0.5 per 100,000 population

This represents 15% of hospitalised injuries and 0.9% of injury deaths. Males were particularly at risk, with a hospitalisation rate 2.7 times as high as females.

Deaths caused by contact with objects are comparatively rare, with just 120 deaths recorded in 2019–20.

Contact with objects (also known as Exposure to inanimate mechanical forces) includes harmful contact with every-day or industrial objects such as knives, tools, machines and sports equipment. It also includes unintentional injuries caused by guns and non-heat-related injuries caused by explosions. (For heat-related injuries, see Thermal causes).

This chapter covers accidental contact with objects. Intentional injuries are included under Intentional self-harm and suicide and Assault and homicide.

Objects that cause hospitalised injuries

The most common causes of hospitalised injury due to exposure to inanimate mechanical forces fall under the broad categories listed in Table 1.

Table 1: Causes of hospitalisation due to contact with objects, 2019–20

Cause

Hospitalisations

%

Rate
(per 100,000)

Contact with blunt objects such as doors, walls, trees, rocks, and sporting equipment (W20–22)

20,550

27

81

Contact with knives, glass, and other sharp objects (W25–26)

19,533

25

77

Contact with tools or machinery (W27–31)

15,909

21

62

Other or unspecified (W23–24, W32, W34–46, W49)

20,979

27

82

Total

76,971

100

301

Notes

  1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population, calculated using estimated resident population as at 31 December of the relevant year.
  2. Totals may not equal the sum of the rows due to rounding.
  3. Codes in brackets refer to the ICD-10-AM (11th edition) external cause codes for hospitalisations (ACCD 2019).

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

For more detail, see Data tables B15–16.

Objects that cause injury deaths

The most common cause of injury death due to exposure to inanimate mechanical forces was contact with blunt objects such as doors, trees, rocks and sporting equipment (43%) (Table 2).

Table 2: Causes of death due to contact with objects, 2019–20

Cause

Deaths

%

Rate
(per 100,000)

Contact with blunt objects such as doors, walls, trees, rocks, and sporting equipment (W20–22)

51

43

0.2

Contact with tools or machinery (W27–31)

20

17

0.1

Caught, crushed, jammed or pinched in or between objects (W23)

15

13

0.1

Contact with knives, glass, and other sharp objects (W25–26)

14

12

0.1

Other or unspecified (W24, W32–W49)

20

17

0.1

Total

120

100

0.5

Notes

  1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population, calculated using estimated resident population as at 31 December of the relevant year.
  2. Totals may not equal the sum of the rows due to rounding.
  3. Codes in brackets refer to the ICD-10 external cause codes for hospitalisations (WHO 2011).

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.

For more detail, see Data tables E22–24.

Seasonality and COVID-19

Hospital admissions due to contact with objects appear to have a minimal seasonal pattern, with a slight increase in injuries from November through to March.  

In March 2020 the first lockdowns and social distancing measures associated with COVID-19 interrupted the usual activity of Australians. The restrictions to movement and activity coincide with a drop in admissions due to injuries caused by contact with objects when compared to those months in previous years, however admissions then rebounded and were above past years in June (Figure 1).

See the interactive COVID-19 display for data and further discussion about the impact of COVID-19 on hospital admissions.

Figure 1: Hospitalisations due to contact with objects by month, 2017–18 to 2019–20

Notes
1. Months have been standardised to 31 days.
2. A scale up factor has been applied to June admissions to account for cases not yet separated.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Trends over time

The age-standardised rate of hospitalisations due to contact with objects in 2019–20 was the same as a year earlier.

Over the period from 2009–10 to 2016–17 there was an average annual increase of 1.3%. There is a break in the time series for hospitalisations between 2016–17 and 2017–18 due to a change in data collection methods (see the Technical notes for details).

For deaths due to contact with objects the average annual change in rate between 2010–11 and 2019–20 was 0.8%.

Figure 2: Hospitalisations due to contact with objects, by sex, 2010–11 to 2019–20

Line graph with 3 lines representing the trend in hospitalisations for males, females and persons from 2010–11 to 2019–20. The reader can select to display rate per 100,000 population or number.

For more detail, see Data tables C1–7 and F1–3.

Variation by age and sex

Injury rates due to contact with objects differ for males and females and across age groups (Figure 3).

In 2019–20:

  • 73% of hospitalisations and 88% of deaths due to contact with objects were for males
  • the age-standardised rates of injury hospitalisation due to contact with objects were 442 cases per 100,000 males, and 165 per 100,000 females
  • males aged 15–24 had the highest rate of hospitalisations due to contact with objects.

Figure 3: Hospitalisations due to contact with objects, by age group and sex, 2019–20

The visualisation features 2 matching column graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The columns represent sex within 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display either age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The default displays males and females and the reader can also select to display persons.

For more detail, see Data tables A1–3 and D1–3.

Severity

There are many ways that the severity, or seriousness, of an injury can be measured. Using available data, three measures of the severity of hospitalised injuries are:

  • number of days in hospital
  • time in an intensive care unit (ICU)
  • time on a ventilator.

Based on data from these measures, injuries due to contact with objects tend to be less severe than the average for all hospitalised injuries (Table 3).

Table 3: Severity of hospitalised injuries due to contact with objects, 2019–20

 

Injuries due to contact with objects

All injuries

Average number of days in hospital

1.9

4.5

% of cases with time in an ICU

0.5

2.4

% of cases involving continuous ventilatory support

0.2

1.4

Note: Average number of days in hospital (length of stay) includes admissions that are transfers from 1 hospital to another or transfers from 1 admitted care type to another within the same hospital, except where care involves rehabilitation procedures.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Types of injuries sustained

In 2019–20, the wrist and hand were the body parts most often identified as the principal site of injury in hospitalisations due to contact with objects (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Hospitalised injuries due to contact with objects by principal body part injured, 2019–20

The visualisation features an outline of a person with labels for body parts accounting for hospitalisations due to contact with objects. Injuries to the wrist and hand accounted for the most hospitalisations due to contact with objects while the trunk (including spine, abdomen and pelvis) accounted for the fewest.

 

Note: Body part refers to the principal reason for hospitalisation. Number and percentage of injuries classified as Other, multiple and incompletely specified body regions or Injuries not described in terms of body region not shown—see Data table A11.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

For more detail, see Data table A11.

Open wound was the most common type of injury for people who were hospitalised due to contact with objects (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Hospitalised injuries due to contact with objects, by type of injury, by sex, 2019–20

Bar graph showing type of injury sustained by category and by sex. Open wound was the most common type for both males and females, followed by fracture. The reader can select to display either the crude rate per 100,000 population or the number of cases. The default display shows data for males and females, and the reader can also select to display for persons.

For more detail, see Data table A10.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

In 2019–20, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

  • there were almost 4,500 hospitalisations (Table 4) and fewer than 5 deaths due to contact with objects
  • males, compared with females, were 1.9 times as likely to be hospitalised due to contact with objects
  • hospitalisation rates were highest among people aged 25–44, compared with other life-stage age groups (Figure 5).
Table 4: Number and rate of injury hospitalisations due to contact with objects by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

2,919

1,539

4,458

Rate (per 100,000)

684

360

522

Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

In 2019–20, Indigenous Australians, compared with non-Indigenous Australians, were 1.7 times as likely to be hospitalised due to contact with objects (after adjusting for differences in population age structure) (Table 5).

Table 5: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of injury hospitalisations due to contact with objects, by Indigenous status and sex, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

670

348

507

Non-Indigenous Australians

429

157

292

Notes

  1. Rates are age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population (per 100,000).
  2. ‘Non-Indigenous Australians’ excludes cases where Indigenous status is missing or not stated.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

The age-specific rate of injury hospitalisations due to contact with objects was highest among the 25–44 age group for Indigenous Australians and highest among the 15–24 age group for non-Indigenous Australians (Figure 6). Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Figure 6: Injury hospitalisations due to contact with objects, by Indigenous status, by age group and sex, 2019–20

Column graph representing hospitalisation data for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display age-specific rate per 100,000 or number. The reader can also select to display data for persons, males or females.

For more detail, see Data tables A4–6 and D4–6.

Remoteness

In 2019–20, people living in Very remote areas, compared with people living in Major cities, were twice as likely to be hospitalised due to contact with objects (using age-standardised rates) (Table 6).

Table 6: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of injury hospitalisations due to contact with objects by remoteness and sex, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

394

155

274

Inner regional

535

171

352

Outer regional

569

185

379

Remote

666

275

477

Very remote

659

399

537

Note: Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

The highest age-specific rate of injury hospitalisations due to contact with objects was among the 15–24 life-stage age group living in Very remote areas of Australia (Figure 7). Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Figure 7: Hospitalisations due to contact with objects, by remoteness, by age group and sex, 2019–20

Column graph representing hospitalisation data for each of the 5 remoteness categories by 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also select to display data for persons, males or females.

For more detail, see Data tables A7–9 and D9–10.

For information on how statistics by remoteness are calculated, see the Technical notes.

More information

Defining injury hospitalisations and deaths: how injuries were counted

Technical notes: how the data were calculated

Data tables: download full data tables

Glossary