Drilling a hole for a picture frame, hopping up a ladder and putting up a shelf – all things that most DIY-ers wouldn’t think twice about. Unfortunately, it’s precisely this over-confidence that leads to millions of people going to hospital for home accidents every year.
Whether you are picking up a hammer for the first time or have been conducting all kinds of DIY home improvement for years, it’s important to understand the biggest risks you’re likely to take. Here is a list of the top five mistakes, and how you can ensure that you’re working more safely from now on.
Relying on Your Trusty Ladder
It may have quite literally supported you through several large DIY projects, but that doesn’t mean it’s still up to the job. Using the wrong type of ladder or high-access platform is a common mistake, but can result in huge risks. If a ladder isn’t designed to support the motion or weight you’re using at the top, it’s more likely to slip, wobble or tumble – taking you down with it. Even putting something in the loft could result in a fall and cause broken bones and brain bleeds.
Step back and consider the task you need to complete – would a new ladder, or even hiring a scaffold tower allow you to do it faster and more safely? When you’re thinking of hiring a scaffold tower it’s important to get measurements right. Tom Bance, director at Precipitous states, “In addition to these five DIY mistakes, the old adage measure twice and cut once always applies!”
Not Wearing a Dust Mask
You’re only going to do a quick bit of sawing, drilling or wall-paper removal – what’s a little bit of dust? Well whether it’s the resin treatment on a panel of MDF or the microscopic fibers coming out of your ceiling plaster, even the smallest particles can be lethal. Many construction materials contain formaldehyde and asbestos, along with a whole host of other nasties that you don’t want to breathe in. The worst-case scenario? Severe respiratory issues and even cancer.
Any hardware store will be able to sell you a face mask – they’re cheap too. If you’re going to be working with solvents or chemicals, consider investing in a respirator to look after your lungs, and pick up any other personal protective equipment that you don’t already have at home.
Not Tidying Up Before or After
The sheer number of people who carry out DIY tasks without taking five minutes to clear up around them is staggering. Lingering extension cables, nearby furniture, and rugs underfoot are all obvious trip hazards, so why don’t more people move them before starting work?
Perhaps even more problematic is leaving tools and materials lying around once you’re finished with them. Power tools, industrial chemicals and sharp bits of kit are particularly dangerous for anyone else entering a room once you’ve left, as they may not be aware of the potential risk.
The solution is simple: make sure your work space is completely unobstructed before you start, and carefully put anything you’ve been using away when you’re finished with it. If you need to take a break part-way through your job, then be conscious about anything that could be tripped over or knocked to the ground by someone else.
Failing to Read the Instructions
Maybe you consider yourself to be a seasoned pro at DIY. Even so, before you pick up a new tool or embark on a task that you haven’t tried before, stop. Do you actually know what you’re doing, and what it involves? If the answer is anything short of “yes, absolutely”, then you’re not properly prepared.
For example, taking down wallpaper might seem like a fairly straightforward job. However, without reading up on it beforehand, you may not realize that behind the paper you can find lead paint or even asbestos – creating a serious problem that cannot be dealt with in an afternoon.
Taking a few extra minutes to learn the best way to use a piece of unfamiliar equipment, or to read up on the potential complications of a job you haven’t done before is going to make your job a lot smoother, as well as safer.
Not Asking for Help
People refusing to accept their limits and ask for help is a huge contributor to trips to the emergency room. Make sure you’re not working too many hours and straining your body. Consider if you are able to lift, carry or reach something yourself, that really requires a specialist tool or an extra pair of hands. Having someone around to assist you makes risky behavior less likely, and also raise the alarm in case of an incident.
Everyone has their DIY limits, and at the end of the day, it’s better to avoid doing a job that you’re not confident in doing, and asking a qualified professional to help instead.
What are your DIY mishaps? Leave a comment below and tell us about your tips for safe DIY.