DIY Danger!

There’s a certain satisfaction that people get when they complete a successful home repair or building project. The do-it-yourself market is now bigger than ever before, but it isn’t without risk. Although our intentions may be good, some of us just don’t have the experience to stay safe when working with tools at home.

Every year, thousands of people will visit the emergency room after having injured themselves during a home project. The majority are minor, but there are those that are more serious and fewer still that are fatal. Most injuries occur to the hands, followed by the eyes, which would make sense given the nature of the projects being completed. Luckily, most all of these injuries are avoidable if some common sense and diligence is applied to keeping your workshop environment safe.

Your Workshop Space

Whether your set-up resides in the garage, the basement or a backyard shed, there are some basics to remember when it comes to working efficiently and safely.

  • Give yourself enough space to work in and avoid an overly cramped workshop area. You’ll need room to move around, especially if you’re dealing with larger tools and materials.
  • Keep you workspace well organized with supported shelving and hooks, and avoid stacking items if you can help it. Not only will you be able to find things more easily, but you’ll avoid getting hurt if something heavy or sharp falls on you.
  • Practice good housekeeping - keep clutter up off the floor to help avoid slips and trips
  • As a general rule, keep kids and pets out of the workspace, especially if you’re using tools or dangerous materials like solvents
  • Ensure that your work area has sufficient ventilation. Dangerous fumes can easily accumulate if you are painting or stripping materials, using harsh chemicals or welding.
  • Always keep a general use (ABC) fire extinguisher close-by just in case
  • Avoid using extension cords if possible, and set up your electrical outlets up so that there are enough of them and enough circuits to handle the load that you put on them. Use GFCI outlets in damp areas to reduce the risk of shock.
  • Some accidents can be avoided if you can see what you’re doing a little better. Maintain good lighting throughout your space, with additional lighting over benches and stationary tools.

Working With Tools

Most people have had some experience with hand tools, but power tools are a whole new ball game. They’re sharp, move very fast and have the potential to do some real harm if you’re not careful.

  • First of all, get to know the tool really well before you do anything. Thoroughly review the owner’s manual to get a clear understanding of the operation and the risks. You can also go online to the manufacturer website for further details or tutorials.
  • If you are not confident using a particular power tool, then don’t take the chance. You’ll be better off getting someone else to do the task for you.
  • Always inspect your tools before you use them. Immediately repair or replace any item that is damaged or is showing excessive wear.
  • Before you start, be sure to put on any protective gear that you may need. This might include impact-resistant eyewear or a full-face shield, appropriate work gloves, hearing protection and safety footwear.
  • Never remove safety guards from power tools or jury-rig them in any way. They were designed that way for a reason.
  • Keep your tools well maintained, with all blades sharp. This helps to avoid any slips through forced cutting.
  • Never leave machines running if they are unattended
  • Always turn power tools off before attempting to adjust them. Be sure that any keys or wrenches are clear before you re-start.
  • Use tools only for their intended purpose. It never pays to get creative with how they function.
  • Avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry when using power tools to avoid getting caught-up
  • Always cut away from your hands and body

Some General Tips

  • Make an effort to limit the amount of combustible materials in your workshop area. Also be sure to keep any fuel in approved containers only.
  • Never start gas or diesel engines in an enclosed space due to the high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Never attempt to use power tools if you have been drinking, using drugs are fatigued or are on prescription medications that may make you drowsy. It only takes a second for an accident to happen if you are not concentrating fully.
  • If you have to use extension cords, be sure that they are rated for the work you are doing and never remove the grounding pin to make things fit
  • Be sure to securely clamp your work to a solid surface rather than holding it in your hand
  • Keep any gas cylinders upright and tightly secured with chains or straps
  • Always keep a well-stocked first aid kit in your workshop in case of emergency. It’s also a good idea to let someone know what you’re working on and when you’ll be finished, especially if working with power saws or anything else dangerous.

Be productive and get creative with your home repair and building projects, but just remember to think about safety first.

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