Some of the most recent statistics on the number of DIY related injuries inflicted reveal that a shocking 200,000 or more people attend emergency rooms each year seeking medical care after injuring themselves whilst trying to work around the house.
If we break that down into daily figures, that’s almost 550 people visiting A&E each and every day with some kind of DIY injury. Figures taken from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) give some insight into the nature of these injuries: around 80,000 severe wounds causing heavy blood loss; around 25,000 individuals with broken bones and around 17,000 with sprains or strains.
The truth is that a large majority of these injuries were likely the result of several factors that are easily rectified: not following instructions, using incorrect tools for the job, not using safety equipment; in other words, not following standard health and safety procedures or using common sense. Let’s look at these in a little more depth shall we.
Perhaps one of the most simple and obvious guidelines – read the instructions if you don’t know how to operate a piece of machinery. If they can bore holes in walls, then they can definitely bore holes in flesh. It may seem like an unnecessary hindrance to spend a few extra minutes reading through a dense document, but it can prevent a potentially fatal injury. So swallow that pride and break out the manual. Don’t take any shortcuts or assume you know what the text is going to say unless you’re willing to risk an injury. The instruction manual is included for a reason.
Use the Correct Tool for the Job
A knife is not a screwdriver. A brick is not a hammer. Got it? Good. Even I am guilty of having used “improvised” tools for the job. Sometimes it’s so much easier to use whatever is close at hand rather than searching through cupboards for the correct tool; that kitchen cupboard door is just a little loose and only needs a few twists on the screw, why not just grab a knife from the draw? But it only takes one slip for that knife to cause a serious wound. This applies to all power tools, and the correct tool should only ever be used for its specified purpose; this means choosing the correct dill bit, the correct size screwdriver, the adequate height of ladder.
Use Appropriate Safety Gear
Best get that manual back out because the large majority of retailers will advise on what is the correct safety equipment for the job and tool at hand. Perhaps one of the biggest aspects of health and safety is having the appropriate clothing and gear to minimalise the risk of injury to oneself.
It goes without saying that you shouldn't really be carrying out DIY work in an evening gown or a winter coat. The clothes you wear should not only be comfortable, and allow easy, flexible movement, but should also have protective properties. Alright, if you're just giving the house a clean or putting up a few shelves, then perhaps a t-shirt and jeans will suffice. But for more intense projects it is advisable to cover up skin and wear thicker, more protective materials, particularly if working with chemicals. The same applies to footwear, and sturdy, inflexible boots are often a good choice here. Nobody wants to drop a hammer on their foot if they’re wearing flip-flops or plimsolls.
A good, durable pair of work gloves is one of the most essential pieces of safety equipment for any DIY enthusiast to have. They're suited to a wide range of jobs and as such have a wide range of styles with varying thickness, tightness and other aspects such as rubber grips on the fingers and palms. Therefore it should be fairly easy to choose a pair that matches the nature of work you commonly carry out.
Finally, in my opinion, safety goggles are an important piece of DIY gear to have if you're an avid DIY enthusiast and carry out more than just the occasional minor improvement. Wounds heal and bones set, but eye trauma is far more serious. Goggles can prevent debris, dust and shavings from entering the eyes which is a particular hazard with power tools that generate such by-products. They also function to keep hazardous chemicals out of your eyes. The usual goggles are large, chunky things but should fit well and leave no gaps around the rim.
Put Everything Away
Fairly straight-forward tip: put everything away after you’re finished. As amazing as your craftsmanship may be in creating that new set of draws or hanging that shelf, there’s still a nail sitting upturned two inches away from your flip-flop endowed feet (why didn’t you wear boots!) which is about to find home inside your heel. Doesn’t sound too pleasant does it? Cables are a tripping hazard, nails are waiting to be stepped on and wood shavings just look plain messy. So clean up, put away and then you’ll have all the time you want to admire your achievement without cursing a last-minute accident.
Keep Kids Out of the Way
This should be fairly obvious to most readers. As sweet as it may be that the kids want to see their mum or dad being the superhero and fixing everything, there’s too much risk carrying out DIY with children present and you can’t always give them as much credit as you’d like. Sharp tools, stray tools, falling tools, lethal chemicals, sharp objects… the list goes on. It’s best to keep them out of harm’s way until the job is done and the tools are put away. Then you can bask in victory over being the superhero. Or something like that.
At the end of the day, most of this advice comes down to common sense. Common sense in reading the instructions that are presented clear as day in front of you, using safety gear to project your body (you only get one!) and being aware of the potential hazards of everything you use and do. Health and safety should always be at the forefront of your mind.