DIY Health and Safety

Do It Yourself

DIY is fun, creative and rewarding - it's also cheaper than hiring a professional to do the work for you.

However, there is a downside. In the UK alone, some 220,000 DIY enthusiasts end up in emergency departments of hospitals in need of treatment for cuts and breaks, falls and concussions. Holiday periods are notoriously dangerous times for your average DIYer.
People often make mistakes when they rush jobs or when they are tired. Many people overestimate their capabilities, for instance gas and electric work should be left to the experts. New regulations in the UK prohibit the DIY enthusiast from undertaking this kind of work.
It therefore makes sense that with any DIY work, safety should be given top priority.

It's worth taking some time planning the job before you start and get kitted out with all the safety gloves, masks, and goggles you can lay your hands on - while you still have them.
Many of us will be buying new power tools or tools with sharp cutting edges that we have never used before to do the job with. If there is a set of instructions - READ THEM first! You know it makes sense.
Even if you think you know how to use a new tool - check the instructions out first. In this day and age technology is changing so fast that many tools come with new gizmos that you might not be aware of. In any case, misuse of a new tool will invalidate any guarantee that might have come with the tool, and remember you can always replace the tool - but you can so easily replace a finger or an eye!
If you have any doubts whatsoever about how to safely use any equipment or material, ask the manufacturer or supplier.

Keep the work area tidy. An untidy work environment easily leads to accidents.

When working in the vicinity of electrical items or cables, make sure the electricity supply is off and the fuse removed. Warn others and be sure that they cannot inadvertently reconnect the supply.

If you do undertake your own plumbing work you will need to guard against contamination and/or damage to appliances and boilers, new plumbing work should be flushed through before connecting to the system. This will overcome the possibility of small amounts of debris remaining in the plumbing installation.

Take care with ladders and access equipment. Ensure that they are properly erected and stable. Be sure to double check the safety and condition of any working platform. Make sure that it can not move or give way. Never use ladders on top of working platforms. Ladder and stepladder accidents send 41,000 people in the UK to hospital annually - often resulting in some of the most serious injuries and even death when people fall from high up.

Be sure you know the correct way to use all the tools. Many have very sharp blades. A tip I always give to students when using sharp bladed tools is - 'Always keep both hands behind the sharp part of the blade!' - If you do this - you can't cut yourself!

Wear safety goggles whenever there may be a danger of flying debris - for example when using power tools. Splinters, grit, dust, dirt and other particles result in another 60,000 UK DIY enthusiasts seeking treatment.

Keep children and pets away from the work area. Store all tools and materials out of their reach.

Always read the labels - on materials to ensure that you know what safety precautions are required and action to be taken in the event of an accident.

Many products give off harmful vapours. The recommendations regarding ventilation and/or respiratory protection should always be followed. When using this type of product, work outside where possible or ensure proper extraction systems are in place.

Only wash with proprietary skin cleaners. Do not use solvents or other chemicals. Not only will these dry and crack the skin, but they can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Do not eat, smoke or drink - while handling materials and wash before meals and snacks.

Always dispose of rubbish carefully. Never dispose of chemicals into the drains.

Lay oily rags out flat - outside to dry to avoid the possibility of spontaneous combustion. Protect the environment!

Here's a list of the most dangerous tools, in order, for your average DIYer:

  • Knives and scalpels
  • Saws
  • Grinders
  • Hammers
  • Chisels
  • Power Drills
  • Axes
  • Planes
  • Welding Equipment

And these are the most dangerous materials for your average enthusiast:

  • Wood, chipboard etc
  • Paving/Concrete Blocks
  • Metal bars, sheets etc
  • Nails
  • Bricks
  • Paint and paint pots
  • Glue, paste etc
  • Screws and Floor/Wall Tiles
  • Wallpaper

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