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Personal Safety And DIY

By: Anna Hinds BA (hons) - Updated: 7 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Diy Safety Ladder Safety Painting Safety

Planning an exciting DIY project? Writing a shopping list of all the tools and gadgets you want? Don’t forget the goggles.

DIY accidents aren’t rare and protective gear – though not cheap – could save you a trip to Casualty. Use our guide to familiarise yourself with DIY safety, and the hazards you could encounter.

Before you start, it’s a good idea to recruit a willing partner: someone who can hold the instructions (and the ladder)…

Choosing Your Tools

When you’re cutting corners, don’t cut the budget! You heard right – in the interests of DIY safety, we’d advise spending generously on the right tools. These aren’t necessarily those with the most unusual functions but those with lots of safety features.

Look for protective shields, safety locks, and ease of cleaning. Check whether it meets safety and electrical standards (if appropriate). When you get home, read the guide to find out the main risks associated with your tool. Set it up according to the instructions – putting on an eye mask if working with hazardous materials, and a facemask to prevent dust or plaster inhalation. Then:

  • Make sure electric tools are not used in damp areas
  • Fit the safety shields and don’t take them off after switching on the power tool
  • Check you aren’t wearing any dangling jewellery, loose clothing or ties
  • Ensure that your working area is well lit.
  • Clear any junk and observers from the area!
  • When you’ve finished, disconnect, dry and pack the tool carefully in its box.

Painting And Decorating

Most paints are solvent-based, unless you use an organic or eco-friendly brand (of which there are more choices now). When you’re using these, be aware of the risks. Breathing in paint fumes can cause nausea, dizziness or headaches and paint stripper poses additional risks to brain, liver and kidneys on a long-term basis.

Stay safe by taking these precautions:

  • Open windows and doors to ventilate the room you are painting
  • Switch off heat sources while painting
  • Use a facemask to protect yourself from solvent-based fumes
  • Use gloves to protect your skin from water-based paints
  • Keep children and pregnant women out of the room (or, better, the house)
  • Don’t sleep in a freshly painted room for at least 2 days
  • Store paint safely in a cool place away from children and pets
  • Dispose of paint responsibly: don’t tip it down the drain. Contact your local authority or see if you can donate it to a good cause.

Climbing And Drilling

Around 1,000 people suffer ladder-caused injuries in the UK every year! Climbing a ladder is the biggest DIY-related risk – so much that the Health and Safety Executive publishes guidelines on ladders.

Here’s a potted summary:

  • Check the ladder over before stepping up. Look for damaged steps, wear on the anti-slip feet, or stones or other items lodged in the feet. Touch the steps looking for oil or grease and check there are no missing screws or rivets.
  • Position your ladder away from doors and windows, electrical cables and power sources.
  • Check the ladder’s feet for any obstructions.
  • Put your ladder on a flat surface (anything with an angle of less than 6°)
  • 75° is the best angle for your ladder. The distance from foot to base of the building should be ¼ of the distance from the bottom of the building to the top rung of the ladder.
  • Make sure the top of the ladder is 1m higher than your required position, and don’t stand on the top three rungs (1m).
  • Keep three points of contact – two feet and one hand – with the ladder at all times.
  • Don’t carry anything you can’t manage with one hand.
  • Don’t over-reach or put your foot on another surface to boost your height.
Drilling, too, brings a whole host of potential problems. Fortunately most people aren’t as blasé about wielding a drill as they are about climbing a ladder. When buying, look for a drill with a plastic handle that won’t conduct electricity.

Read the instructions to prepare for the job, then put on safety goggles and gloves if you’re drilling something that could irritate your skin. When drilling a very hard surface, make a pilot hole before you begin to drill – and be sure to select the correct drill bit. Don’t leave the drill plugged in when you’ve finished.

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