DIY at Home: Safety Smarts

Whether you're undergoing a huge renovation project or just hammering in a nail, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Here are some top tips from Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council, on how to make your next DIY project a safe and successful one.

Top Tips

  1. Make a plan. Mistakes often happen when DIYers are "not well prepared or not properly trained to use certain equipment," says Appy.
  2. Allow enough time to complete a job in case mistakes or setbacks occur. "People tend to cut corners in a hurry and this is when accidents happen," says Appy. "Don't rush through things."
  3. Be well rested and "know your limits," Appy says. Don't push yourself - take plenty of breaks and stop when you are tired.
    • Keep a well-stocked first aid kit and a fire extinguisher in an accessible location while you're working.
    • Post emergency numbers (PDF) by each phone...just in case.
  4. Falling and flying objects, especially when working in tight spaces, can pose a hazard to your head, face and eyes. Consider wearing hard hats, safety vests, protective eye wear and ear plugs while working.
    • If you allow someone to watch you work, make sure they wear protective gear too.
  5. Keep your work area clean and free from clutter.
  6. Read the safety and warning labels on tools and machinery. Those labels are there for a reason. Someone has experienced that injury or problem – learn from the example of others and wear appropriate safety gear and practice safety while using tools.
  7. Unplug the power cord before you do any trouble-shooting on a tool that is jammed or won't start, and never walk away from a plugged-in-power tool -- even for a few minutes.

Ladder Safety

  1. Stay grounded: Place the ladder on level ground and open it completely, making sure all locks are engaged.
  2. Practice the 4 to 1 rule: for each 4 feet of distance between the ground and the upper point of contact (such as the wall or roof), move the base of the ladder out 1 foot.
  3. Spot the safety step: Stand at or below the 4th highest rung on extension ladder, 2nd highest step on a step ladder
  4. Practice the 3 points of contact rule: keep 2 feet on the ladder at all times and hold on to a rung of the ladder with one hand. If your belly button passes above the ladder, you could be at risk for falling.

Updated: 05/2009