Lauren O’Connor, from tool and safety equipment supplier Zoro, shares four hazards that it can be easy to overlook during DIY work around the home, and what you can do to avoid an accident or injury.
If you’re a keen DIY hobbyist, then chances are you’ll think nothing of touching up some paint, staining wood, or sanding a rough door jamb from time to time. On the surface, these can seem like low-risk tasks, but even little jobs like these can be surprisingly dangerous — especially if you’re so used to doing them that you’ve stopped taking the right precautions before you pick up tools.
Some of the biggest risks come in the form of deceptively easy tasks, and even the most experienced handyman can be caught out. In this article, I’m going to talk about four home DIY hazards that you might overlook, and what you can do to keep yourself safe. Just keep reading to learn more.
Protect yourself from dust and respiratory irritants
All sorts of DIY tasks — from removing tiles to stripping carpets — can produce clouds of dust. While this is fine in small concentrations, high volumes of inhalable particulate matter can seriously irritate the lungs and airways.
Cutting and sanding jobs can be particularly hazardous, especially when working with wood, MDF, and plywood, which is why it’s so important to make sure your workspace is well-ventilated. If possible, you should always carry out any sanding or cutting work outside, or in an airy garage with large open doors. If this isn’t possible, then you’ll need to find other ways of ensuring your workspace is properly ventilated: open as many windows and doors as possible and use a portable fan to help vent matter out of the room. It’s also a good idea to wear a respirator designed for cutting and sanding work.
If you’ve got a ventilation system in your home or an air conditioner of any kind, then you’ll also need to be extra-careful these don’t become clogged with dust, as these will circulate harmful matter around your living space when you next switch them on. If it’s a portable unit, put it in a different room while you work, and if not, switch it off and cover the vents with thick paper and masking tape to stop any dust from getting inside.
Using white spirits and paint strippers
Paint strippers contain potent chemicals called methylene chloride, which allow them to break down solvents. While this can be very useful when you need to strip furniture or doors for repainting, it also means they can be hazardous to the lungs and skin if used without the proper precautions.
When using these products, you should always wear clothing that covers the arms and wrists in case of splashes or spillages and protect your hands with a pair of chemically resistant gloves designed for use with your paint stripper (this will usually be stated in the manufacturer’s instructions).
White spirits and strippers also produce fumes that can cause dizziness, nausea and even unconsciousness when inhaled. So, you’ll need to make sure that your work area is properly ventilated during use and give yourself regular breaks to allow the fumes to disperse. After finishing, you should always make sure that you reseal your white spirits and paint strippers securely to prevent any leaks or fumes escaping and store them in a cool, dark place. If there’s any risk that children might be able to access them, then it’s sensible to keep them in a securely locked box or cabinet in an out of the way place, like the garage.
Repairing electrical appliances or rewiring your home can be extremely dangerous, so you’ll need to be particularly confident that you know what you’re doing and have the correct safety gear before you begin. During repairs, you should always wear insulated safety gloves, and preferably a pair of rubber-soled boots designed for electrical work. While not a failsafe form of protection against shocks or burns, they’ll offer an extra layer of insulation should something go wrong. Electrical repairs can be complex, and there are lots of things you’ll need to bear in mind, so take a look at Electrical Safety First’s guide for DIYers to learn more.
Once you’ve finished your repairs, it’s vital you make sure that your work is sound. Improperly repaired electricals will continue to be a danger to you and anyone who comes into contact with them, so if you’re not completely confident that your handiwork is up to scratch, call a professional for a second opinion. Even if you need to fork out for repairs, it’s much better than causing an accident or leaving a potentially dangerous appliance to injure those around you.
Painting and Staining Jobs
Most of us think nothing of touching up some cracked paintwork or staining a bit of damaged garden furniture. But, nearly all paints and stains contain solvents, which can cause irritation and even burns, so you should always make sure you’re wearing adequate protection — even for small jobs. Long sleeves, thick work trousers or jeans, and shoes that will protect the feet from splashes and spillages are essential during this sort of work, so make sure you’re fully suited and booted before you pick up tools.
Many people avoid wearing gloves during painting and staining work because they think it will hinder their accuracy with the brush, but there are lots of gloves on the market that will protect your skin without compromising your dexterity. A pair of well-fitted latex or nitrile gloves will prevent any skin irritation, and you’ll still be able to apply the paint or stain accurately. It’s also important to ensure you apply these products in a well-ventilated area: if you’re working in a space where opening the windows isn’t possible, then wear a respirator and take regular breaks to allow the fumes to disperse.
Even if you’re an old hand at DIY, you should always be on your guard for potential hazards. Remember, if don’t think you have the correct tools or PPE to handle a job safely, then it’s always a smart move to call in a professional — after all, it’s better than risking an accident or paying a small fortune to fix sloppy repairs.
DIY Tips post these safety reminders several times a year because we know how common it is for people to injure themselves or others while trying some DIY. In most cases, a few simple preparations or using the correct equipment will stop most of these accidents happening. You have been warned!