DIY Safety

PPE and safety considerations for DIY

Serious injuries to do-it-yourself (DIY) home handymen are commonplace and rising due to a lack of experience, knowledge and failure to use the appropriate PPE.

Power saws, grinders, welder, lawn mowers and ladders are the most common causes of injury, with males five times more likely to be injured than females, according to the Injury Control Council of WA (ICCWA).

Common injuries include puncture wounds, loss of vision, broken bones, severed fingers and even death.

Encouraged by “reality TV” shows such as The Block and House Rules that often portray DIY home renovations as easy, people attempt work they are not qualified for, according to chief executive of the Master Builders Association, Wilhelm Harnisch.

”They will run into the sorts of problems which you won’t see on the TV shows,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

However complacency towards safety and incorrect PPE compliance does also occur on these shows, with 2015 House Rules contestant , Karina suffering a head injury when a roof tile fell and broke on her head. She was not wearing a hard hat as it had not been thought necessary. Thankfully she was not seriously injured, however it could have been very different.

NSW Ambulance Inspector John Brotherhood said paramedics are constantly called to DIY jobs gone seriously wrong.

“We had one patient trying to drill some holes in a metal sheet which was resting in his lap. He’s drilled through the middle and put the drill through his testicles.”

Insp Brotherhood said that to minimise the chance of injury, people should first seek expert advice and carry out the job using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and in the company of another person.

He stressed PPE should also be worn when dealing with toxic fumes or working on older homes that may contain asbestos and lead, as well as when using garden and weed sprays.

“We are often called to treat people who have poisoned themselves. They’re usually wearing shorts and a t-shirt, the wind’s blowing and they get themselves covered in it,” he said.

If you cut off a finger or body part:

Step 1: Stop the bleeding and call an ambulance.

Step 2: Look for the body part.

Step 3: Put the body part in two plastic bags and place in tepid or iced water. “Don’t freeze it – if you freeze the tissue, you’ll kill it,” Insp Brotherhood advised.

Using Power Tools Safely:

  • Never use a tool beyond your experience or ability and use the right tool for the job.
  • Keep your body, fingers and clothing away from blade and disconnect power before changing blades.
  • Use sharp blades – a blunt blade increases the likelihood of grabbing, kicking and injury.
  • Ensure any guards and guides are in place – they are there for a reason.
  • Check for fraying of wires and cables.

Using Ladders Safely:

  • Wear a helmet.
  • Never use a ladder on your own.
  • Maintain three points of contact with the ladder at all times.
  • Ensure it is on a flat and stable surface or has adjustable legs if being used on a slope.
  • Never over-reach.
  • Don’t use the top two steps.
  • Ensure you are in the company of another person.

10 DIY No Brainers:

  • Safety glasses or goggles.
  • Protective footwear – preferably boots with steel caps.
  • A hardhat that can be tightened for a snug fit.
  • Application specific, well-fitting gloves.
  • Dust masks or a respirator designed for the application.
  • Ear muffs or ear plugs.
  • Protective clothing matched to the application.
  • Eliminate potential snags such as jewellery, hair and loose clothing.
  • Beware of asbestos and lead. Know your obligations and take all necessary precautions.
  • Licensed tradespeople are required for plumbing and electrical work and in NSW, renovators require an owner-builder permit for work costing more than $5000.

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