Careful packing to prevent injury

16 Dec 2010
As many Victorians start to pack up for the holidays Consumer Affairs Victoria is reminding people to take care with elastic luggage straps which, if detached, can spring back and cause head injuries and even death.

Elastic luggage straps, sometimes called octopus or ‘occy’ straps, are elastic straps or cords with a hook or fastening device at each end. They are designed to secure luggage or other objects. If the straps rebound or break at a high speed they can hit people causing death or injury, especially to the eyes.

Between January 2000 and June 2009 there were at least 140 emergency room visits in Victorian hospitals for elastic luggage strap related injuries. This is an average of 16 a year. The vast majority of these injuries involved people being struck by a luggage strap in the eye.

“At this time of year with many Victorians getting ready to go on holiday lots of people will soon be busy packing so we are reminding everyone to be careful when using these straps to secure their luggage,” Consumer Affairs Director Dr Claire Noone said.

“Going on holiday should be fun and stress free so we want to make sure Victorians take every precaution to guard against injury.”

Elastic straps that are faulty or used incorrectly can cause a range of injuries including eye damage, fractures, cuts and head injuries.

To minimise the risk of injury, there is a mandatory safety standard for these straps in Australia. Regulations require that elastic luggage straps have a permanently attached label containing the following warning;

WARNING. Avoid eye injury. DO NOT overstretch. ALWAYS keep face and body out of recoil path. DO NOT use when strap has visible signs of wear or damage.

“People using these straps should always follow the directions issued by the manufacturer,” Dr Noone said.

“Most injuries occur when people fail to heed the warning labels on these products.”

In 1996 a 13 year old boy was killed in Western Australia when an elastic strap rebounded and struck him in the throat.

The risk of injuries around elastic luggage straps is reduced when people observe the warnings in place and use the straps with caution.

Anyone who trades in products that don’t meet the mandatory safety regulations may be subject to heavy fines and product recalls.

Contact details

For further advice and information contact Consumer Affairs Victoria on 1300 55 81 81 or view Consumer Affairs Victoria's Product safety section.
Consumer Affairs (VIC)