Safety Considerations – Home Improvements and DIY
When undertaking any projects around the home safety should be the number one consideration. There is an element of risk to almost any job and it is vital to minimize such risks by taking all necessary precautions. For example, safety equipment should be considered a vital element of your general and you will also need to maintain a top quality first aid kit. Above all, never carry out any task that common sense indicates will be dangerous.
Ladders and steps are invaluable for gaining access to higher levels. Although simple tools they are often abused and can lead to nasty accidents if used incorrectly. By obeying the following rules you will minimize the risk of injury.
- The distance from the base of the wall or skirting board to the foot of the ladder must be a quarter of the height the ladder rests at.
- The base of the ladder must rest on a level, non-slip surface.
- Both foot pads must touch the ground you may shim with pads but keep the ladder level.
- Ensure that the top of the ladder has total contact with the wall surface.
- Before mounting a ladder, check all rungs are secure and have not been damaged in any way.
- If using a ladder outdoors watch out for overhead powerlines and telephone cables.
- Never overstretch if you cannot reach comfortably, move the ladder.
- When working at any height have a helper hold the bottom of the ladder to prevent it moving.
The over-enthusiasm of children and curious nature of animals can lead to accidents. Try to keep these elements clear of the working area!
A range of safety equipment is available for various DIY tasks. Some items are intended for particular jobs, but many, such as goggles, work boots and protective gloves, should be worn in most situations. It is also essential to have a well stocked first aid kit to deal with grazes and abrasions.
General safety equipment, useful to own when performing home improvements, include:
- ear defenders
- dust mask
- respirator mask
- knee pads
- hard hat
- plastic gloves
- protective gloves
- work boots
- lead test kit
- first aid kit
Looking After Your Health
Get help when lifting boards and joists. Do not lift more than you can safely carry and when lifting bend your knees, not just your waist. Wear gloves to protect your hands from rough concrete and timber splinters.
Dust can be deadly so always wear a dust mask, which in Europe should be CE marked. Some of the cheaper masks offer little or no protection against certain dusts. Cut tiles and sheet timber outside if possible, particularly when using power tools.
Never drill into an area of a wall, floor or ceiling where there are likely to be electric cables orand water pipes behind. Use a joist, pipe and cable detector to locate the exact position of such services before starting work.
Some of the procedures described in this page utilize heat-producing tools, most notably for the removal of paint. Always have a bucket of water or fire extinguisher close at hand when working with such tools, as a small fire can quickly turn into a big fire if it is not quickly put out.
Electric cut off
If using electrically operated power tools, it is a good idea to invest in a special cut off device. In the event of the cable being accidentally cut, the device will shut down thesupply to the tool. This is commonly called a residual current circuit device or RCD for short.
Some older properties may contain asbestos products or insulation. If you come across suspected asbestos get it removed by a specialist contractor.
Lead was added to paint until fairly recently and can be released into the atmosphere if an old finish is burnt off. Remove lead-based paints with paint stripper before recoating, rather than with a blow-lamp or hot air gun. Modern paints and varnishes are far less toxic but it is still important to follow the instructions on the can, particularly concerning brush cleaning and disposal of excess paint. Remove paint from skin with a proprietary hand cleaner not white spirit, which strips essential oils from the skin and can lead to dermatitis in extreme cases. Avoid breathing the heavy vapour fromand work in a well ventilated space whenever possible.
If you start to feel light headed, stop work immediately and go outside into the fresh air.
- Before using any unfamiliar tools read and fully understand the manufacturers instructions. Tools from hire shops should come with an instruction booklet but if you are in any doubt ask for a demonstration before you leave with the tool.
- Chisels, planes and cutting equipment must always be kept as sharp as possible. More accidents are caused by blunt tools slipping on the surface than by sharp tools. An oilstone is ideal to keep tools such as chisels razor sharp.
- Power tools require additional precautions. Unplug any tool before changing bits or blades and never operate with safety guards removed. Regularly inspect cables and wires to ensure they are in good condition. If frayed or damaged they should be replaced to prevent the risk of potentially lethal electric shocks. Although just about every power tool is double insulated for safety, never let a cable trail in water or use a power tool outside in the rain. Power tools in general may also require periodic servicing and accessories, such as bits and blades, should be renewed when necessary, as old ones can strain the workings of the tool.
- Hammers can often slip off nail heads when you are knocking them in. To prevent this, sand the striking face of the hammer to clean it and provide a fine key. This technique may be applied to all types of hammer and is useful for any hammering job.