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How to stay safe during D.I.Y. projects

Adam_W
Valued Contributor

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Aussies and Kiwis are proudly unafraid of picking up the tools when the need arises, from simple paint jobs to full renovations.

 

An unfortunate side effect of our commitment to D.I.Y. is accidents and injuries. Whatever project you are undertaking, it’s important to do everything you can to stay safe.

 

Safety gear


Your single greatest precaution against harm is your safety gear, technically known as PPE – personal protective equipment.

 

The old saying “plan for the worst while hoping for the best” should be applied. There’s no harm in wearing more gear than you may think you need. For example, when mowing the lawn, why not wear gloves as well as ear, eye and foot protection?

 

Eye protection

 

If you are using power tools where there is dust created or a risk of material being ejected, you need eye protection. That includes drills, lineSafety glasses and gloves are a must for most tasks.Safety glasses and gloves are a must for most tasks. trimmers and hammers.


There are great safety glasses for outdoor use that look like sports-style wrap-around sunnies giving you both physical and UV protection. For indoor use, look at safety glasses with clear or light-enhancing yellow lenses.

 

In dusty situations such as when installing insulation, or when using tools like angle grinders or line trimmers, use the goggle-style protection that has full coverage on all sides.

 

A more serious option is a face visor. Often made of a fine stainless steel mesh, visors are intended for use with tools such as brush cutters and chainsaws which can eject a lot of material back towards the user.

 

Hearing protection

 

Know the noise level of your power equipment.Know the noise level of your power equipment.Damage to your hearing is something that will typically only appear over time. You may not think your lawnmower, blower, power saw, nail gun, or hammer are doing damage, but they can be slowly causing damage.


Hearing protection comes in two main types: over-ear in the form of earmuffs or in-ear as earplugs. Choose protection that is up to the task as many are rated for the noise level reduction they offer. For example, general purpose Class 5 earmuffs will reduce sound levels by around 30dBA, taking a noisy and damaging 100dBA power saw down to a safe 70dBA.

 

A short sharp sound of excessive level can cause immediate hearing damage but so too can a constant sound of a lower level.

 

If you will be exposed to any low-level hazard for an extended time, wear appropriate protection. Mowing the lawn is perhaps the best example. Your mower may not seem that loud, however, if you are doing the edging, pushing the mower around for 30 minutes and then blowing to tidy up, that’s a lot of noise exposure.

 

Breathing protectionThere's a huge range of breathing protection.There's a huge range of breathing protection.

 

This is one of the more complex areas of PPE as there are a variety of respiratory protection types for different situations.

 

For most situations involving basic nuisance dust, a plain dust mask will suffice. But if you start to deal with chemicals or hazardous dust then you need to look at proper respirators. Read the packaging of respirators and masks carefully before purchasing to ensure that your needs are covered by the level of protection offered. And check the labels on products you are already using as they will likely tell you the class of protection required as well as other precautions such as ensuring adequate ventilation.

 

Masks, respirators and cartridges should be replaced frequently, especially if used in dusty environments.

 

General duty cotton and leather gloves are ideal for garden clean ups.General duty cotton and leather gloves are ideal for garden clean ups.

Hand protection

 

There are a huge range of gloves to suit every purpose. The range starts from lightweight garden gloves to heavy duty, demolition-grade gloves that feature knuckle protection. Ensure your gloves are suitable for the work you are undertaking and that they are a comfortable fit while still allowing you to have a sense of touch.

 

Most gloves will be wrist length, however there are long gauntlet gloves that are designed for situations such as welding, grinding or rose pruning where your forearms need protection. And if you are working with chemicals of any sort or using certain paints or sealants, then wear chemical-resistant PVC gloves.

 

Ongoing exposure to vibration from power tools can cause long-term health problems. Disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome can develop over time causing all manner of issues such as tingling, numbness and weakness in grip. You can reduce such risks by wearing anti-vibration gloves. It also helps to regularly service your power tools to keep them running smoothly and efficiently.

 

 

Any footwear needs good grip.Any footwear needs good grip.Foot protection

 

All footwear worn during D.I.Y. tasks (even regular jobs like mowing the lawn) should be fully-enclosed and with a quality non-slip sole. Where a higher risk exists, look at work boots. And in more hazardous situations such as working with mowers, chainsaws or handling heavy materials or equipment, wear heavy-duty boots with protective toe caps.

 

Specialised PPE

 

Beyond the big five of eyes, ears, breathing, hands and feet, there is a range of specialised PPE that is worth knowing about and adding to your kit.

 

Disposable overalls

 

Disposable overalls are useful when using chemicals or paints that may leave stains or undesirable residue on clothing, or when installing insulation. They are also a must if there is a risk of working with hazardous dusts from lead-based paint or asbestos.

 

When you remove this gear, turn it inside out so that any surface material is not shed, and dispose of it in a sealed bag.

 

Hard hats

 

Hard hats are essential when working with chainsaws or on a worksite when any activity is taking place overhead. If a hard hat suffers a serious impact, it should be immediately replaced as the impact has weakened the shell.

 

Protection combo units

 

Integrating a face shield, forehead protection and ear muffs, combo units also can include a hard hat. Protection combo units are for use with heavy duty brush cutters and chainsaws and similar multi-risk situations.

Knee pads and cut-resistant clothing can protect against serious injury.Knee pads and cut-resistant clothing can protect against serious injury.

 

Knee pads and kneelers

 

Knee pads can save you from serious long-term knee damage but also from nasty puncture wounds that can easily occur from kneeling on a nail or other sharp object. These are worn like skating knee pads.

 

Kneelers are another option and are generally a high-density foam mat you can move with you and place down as needed.

 

Cut-resistant clothing

 

Designed primarily for wearing when using chainsaws, cut-resistant chaps, pants and jackets provide protection against serious injury should a chainsaw kick-back or the chain breaks.

 

 

 

Hidden dangers


Perhaps one of the most insidious of D.I.Y. risks is the materials that may be lurking in your home. The two major risks are lead from lead-based paints and asbestos-based products.


Up until the mid-70s, many domestic paints contained lead. If you are renovating an older home you need to take this into account and take suitable precautions.

 

The second hidden nasty is asbestos. It was a very common component of many building materials up until the early 80s. It can be present in wallboards and cladding, roofing, insulation, vinyl floor tiles, pipe lagging, cement and mortar around fireplaces or barbecues, and even stormwater pipes. The golden rule with asbestos is do not disturb. However, this may be unavoidable or inadvertent when you are unaware that asbestos board is behind modern gyprock.

 

The best approach is to identify the possibility of either lead-based paint or asbestos being present – the biggest red flag being the age of the property. Do your research into whether work can safely be conducted and if in any doubt, call in the professionals.

 

Tips for keeping safe while on the tools

 

  • Evaluate every task before you commence. Look for potential hazards and risks and determine what safety gear or PPE you need.

 

  • Always let someone know what you are doing so they can be aware of risks and hazards and find you if needed.

 

  • It’s good practice to have someone working with you when using ladders, even at low heights.

 

  • Use the right tool for the job and never apply excessive pressure or force. If you need to put all your weight behind a power drill for example, then you either need a new drill bit or the drill is not suitable for the job.

 

  • Use proper supports, such as sawhorses or a workbench, when cutting or working on materials.

 

  • Use quick release clamps to secure materials while working with them.

 

  • Check all equipment and tools are clean and in good working order before using them.

 

  • Ensure cutting tools – saw, drill bits, chisels – are sharp and clean.

 

  • Check blades of angle grinders for any fractures or gouges and replace before use.

 

  • Even if your switchboard has safety cut-off circuits, use a plug-in safety switch or extension cord with integrated safety switch with yourCheck safety gear for the standards ticks and its protection class.Check safety gear for the standards ticks and its protection class. power tools.

 

  • Don’t use worn or damaged extension leads.

 

  • Ensure any safety gear you use is standards-approved.

 

  • Select the right gear for the task at hand. For example, you don’t need safety-toe boots when you are painting but you do need suitable enclosed, non-slip shoes for getting up and down ladders safely.

 

  • Use your own gear. Apart from basic hygiene it’s a good idea for everyone at your place that gets into D.I.Y. to have their own kit. That includes the kids. You’ll find safety gear for little people too.

 

  • Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing which may get caught in a drill-chuck or hooked on a work platform. It’s also smart to keep long hair tied back.

 

  • Read the manual for tools and the label of paints or chemicals to see what the recommended PPE is and for any other precautions. Follow them as a minimum.

 

  • Keep your safety gear up to date. Replace anything that is becoming worn as it may not be doing the job any longer.

 

Drawing the D.I.Y. line


It is always satisfying learning new D.I.Y. skills and completing a job. But a very important skill to learn is to know when to call in the professionals.


As much as we all like to learn, there are times when you have to admit that a job is beyond your capabilities and your tool kit. The further you push yourself, the riskier a project might become. You can save yourself a lot of angst and stay safe when you recognise and respond to your limits.


Of course, electrical and plumbing work should not be D.I.Y. jobs. This is not just a safety issue, it is a legal obligation. Call in the trades in these situations, even if it’s something seemingly as simple as moving a light switch.


Another area when extreme caution needs to be applied is anything to do with structural works, whether indoors or out. Remember, D.I.Y. safety isn’t just about you on the tools today, it’s also about the job you leave and the safety of everyone using it for years to come.

 

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2 Replies
Walzz
Junior Contributor

One thing that wasn't mentioned was electrical safety and trip hazards.
Using power tools in wet areas or exposed to rain puts you at risk of electric shock.  Also when drilling into walls to fit wall anchors you may unwittingly hit a live cable a small depth below the render or a cable enclosed in conduit where you don't expect one to be (ask me how I know).
This stud finder/sensor can detect live wires to a depth of 2 inches and can save you a LOT of aggravation.
https://www.bunnings.com.au/stanley-fatmax-sensor-stud-finder-s300_p5660419 

Fat-Max-stud-finder.jpg




Another good thing to have, especially outdoors is a portable power box with built in RCD protection that trips if your drill hits a live wire or you accidently cut through a power lead with your circular saw. https://www.bunnings.com.au/arlec-4-outlet-heavy-duty-portable-safety-switch_p0172961 
Arlec-pwr-board.jpg


Lastly, keep you work area clear of things that can cause you to loose your footing or trip.  I heard a story of a chippy using a drop saw, his apprentice tripped on a tangled extension lead causing him to bump the length of timber being cut and the chippy lost the top of one finger.
trip-hazard_02.jpg

StevieB
Projects Editor
Projects Editor

Thanks for jumping in with these important additions @Walzz.

 

Stevie

 

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