Home Improvement Safety

  • Do-It-Yourself Safety Tips

Taking on home improvement projects can be fun and appealing. However, being handy around the home could lead to serious injury if you don't take appropriate safety precautions. The State of Home Safety in America report (2002) found that emergency departments reported more than 330,000 visits due to injuries with home workshop equipment in a single year. Safety practices will shield you and your loved ones from injuries related to home improvement projects:

  • Keep a stocked first aid kit in every location that an injury may occur. First aid may make the difference between a quick recovery and permanent injury.

  • Post emergency numbers, including the national Poison Control Hotline (1-800-222-1222) by each phone.

  • If you decide to install a fire extinguisher in your workshop, contact your fire department to learn how to select the proper type of extinguisher and when to use it.

  • Keep hazardous materials out of children's reach.

  • When working with any product, check warnings and content labels to identify hazards.

  • Follow manufacturer's instructions and heed warning labels.

  • Use gasoline as a motor fuel only.

  • Gasoline must never be used indoors, because its flammable vapors can be ignited by even a tiny spark. Store gasoline in an outdoor shed or garage, out of children's reach, in a vented container approved for gasoline storage.

  • Use caution with other flammable and combustible products. Properly dispose of oily rags after use and hang them outside to dry.

  • Falling and flying objects, especially when working in tight spaces, can pose a hazard to your head, face and eyes. Consider wearing hard hats, safety vests, protective eye wear and ear plugs while working.

  • If you allow someone to watch you work, make sure they wear protective gear too.

  • Wear chemical safety glasses when using hazardous solvents and cleaning products.

  • Wear safety glasses with side shields when using power tools.

  • Designate your work area as a "kid free zone" to keep young children out of harm's way and out of the reach of tools and equipment.

  • Do not wear any loose or dangling clothing or jewelry that could become caught in moving parts.

  • Keep your work area clean and free from clutter.

  • Keep power equipment in good condition. Repair or replace damaged tools.

  • Read and follow manufacturer's instructions and warnings on tools, power equipment and building materials.

  • Use heavy duty extension cords for tools such as trimmers and edgers listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) for outdoor use.

  • Unplug the power cord before you do any trouble-shooting on a tool that is jammed or won't start, and never walk away from a plugged-in-power tool -- even for a few minutes.

  • Follow basic ladder safety rules whenever climbing.


  • Eye and Hand Protection in the Woodworking Shop

Every time you walk into a shop you potentially expose yourself to certain risks. Dust, fumes, noise and flying wood chips are sometimes waiting. But keep in mind that your shop doesn't necessarily have to be a dangerous place. Taking some basic precautions helps to prevent accidents.

  • Eye Protection

Back when I taught junior high, we started each quarter with a graphic film about a workshop eye injury. The scenario concluded with actual footage of unsuccessful surgery. After viewing that difficult-to-watch movie, those kids religiously wore their safety glasses.

We all need this kind of strong reminder from time to time. How many times have we heard: "I'm only making one cut...done this a million times...never had a problem"? There are always plenty of excuses for not wearing eye protection, but never good ones.

You should be sure your eyes are protected any and every time you turn on a machine. If you're in the shop with someone else running machines, you should still wear eye protection. And, remember, your prescription glasses probably don't qualify. Chances are, they lack the required impact resistance. And they also don't have side shields.

Safety glasses have come a long way from those old "frog-eyed" goggles from chemistry class. With a little shopping, you can find an attractive pair that's really quite comfortable. Be sure to look for glasses that are ANSI certified because this tells you they've been impact tested. If you wear prescription glasses and can't find safety glasses that fit over them, get a full-face shield. Here's a good final tip: To prevent your plastic safety glasses from getting covered with sawdust, wipe them with a dryer sheet. It reduces static and helps your lenses stay clear.

  • Gloves

Many finishes and strippers can irritate your skin, or get absorbed through your skin and end up in your bloodstream. Wear rubber gloves when handling these materials. Not only will disposable gloves protect you, they save the step of trying to wash stain off your hands. Just peel off the gloves, and your hands are clean. Some strippers are too caustic for lightweight latex disposable gloves. You may need heavy-duty rubber gloves.

It's always best to find out what specific precautions you need to take with each product you use. Yes, this means reading the instructions! It's for your own good, and not a good place to take shortcuts. Protect your hands, eyes, and lungs, and provide proper ventilation.

  • Safety is Smart

Unlike junior high, there's nobody in your shop to yell at you when you're not wearing the right safety gear. It's up to you to be safety smart. Get in the habit of wearing eye protection and rubber gloves when needed, and you'll be around to enjoy woodworking a lot longer.

  • Ladder Safety Tips

According to the Home Safety Council's State of Home Safety in America (2002), nearly 150,000 people were treated for home ladder injuries in U.S. emergency departments in 2000. Whether you're spring cleaning, hanging decorations or painting, the same basic ladder safety rules apply:

  • Before using a ladder outdoors, choose a location that is well away from all power lines. Coming in contact with live wires can be fatal.

  • Place the ladder on level ground and open it completely, making sure all locks are engaged.

  • Use the 4-to-1 rule for extension ladders: for each 4 feet of distance between the ground and the upper point of contact (such as the wall or roof), move the base of the ladder out 1 foot.

  • Always face the ladder when climbing and wear slip-resistant shoes, such as those with rubber soles.

  • Keep your body centered on the ladder and gauge your safety by your belt buckle. If your buckle passes beyond the ladder rail, you are overreaching and at risk for falling.

  • Make sure rungs are dry before using the ladder.

  • Stand at or below the highest safe standing level on a ladder. For a stepladder, the safe standing level is the second rung from the top, and for an extension ladder, it's the fourth rung from the top.

  • Painting Safety Tips

Before tackling how-to painting projects, it is crucial to "brush up" on safety tips. Since painting is the most popular D-I-Y project, please read on to learn how to paint your home safely.

  • General Tips

You've heard it before, but please read the label on the paint can and follow manufacturer's instructions. If the paint is flammable or combustible, take these precautions:

  • Open windows and doors to create ventilation and disperse fumes.

  • Eliminate all sources of flame, sparks and ignition (put out pilot lights by turning off the gas and do not re-light until after room is free of fumes).

  • While working with flammable or combustible paints, don't smoke.

  • Don't use electrical equipment while working with paints (it may cause sparks)

  • Make sure light bulbs are not exposed to sudden breakage.

  • Clean up spills promptly.

  • Keep containers closed when not in use.

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