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10 Safety tips for amateur DIY home projects

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Home DIY safety tips

Home improvement accidents send hundreds of thousands of people in the US to the ER each year. And, as more and more people are tackling do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement projects to save money, home safety needs to be part of their home improvement plans. Whether you’re an amateur or veteran DIYer, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) -- the industry leader in safety testing and certifications -- encourages you to take the following safety precautions before climbing up that ladder or switching on that power tool.

1. Keep a first aid kit handy

Anticipate those bumps, scrapes or something more serious with a basic first aid kit that is easy to carry and latches securely, but can be opened quickly when needed. Make sure it is well stocked and within reach.

2. Nix the fashion statement

You aren't being filmed for an HGTV show, so be practical about your attire. Don't wear watches, bracelets or clothing with long, loose sleeves; they can get caught in moving parts of power tools and other equipment.

3. Use the 4-to-1 rule for proper ladder placement

For every four feet of ladder height, the bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall or object it is leaning against. Remember to read the instructions and warning labels before using a ladder. The instructions will help you identify the proper ladder for the job and describe ladder weight and height limits. In addition, always use a ladder that is long enough for the task at hand. Many ladder accidents are the result of using a ladder that is too short.

4. Incorporate safety accessories into your DIY style

Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from debris, and if you're operating a loud power tool, wear earplugs to minimize damage to your ears.

5. Follow instructions, not intuition

As with any household appliance, power tools need to be maintained and used in accordance with the manufacturer's warnings, precautions and instructions. In addition, be sure to check the switch on a power tool or garden appliance to make sure it's "OFF" before you plug it in. Before buying new tools, always look for the UL mark, which indicates that the product has been tested to stringent safety standards with regard to fire, electric shock and related safety hazards.

6. Don't step away from the power tool

Never leave an active power tool unattended. Unplug power tools before leaving the room. Store them out of children's reach.

7. Do a power tool check

Even before you consider a DIY project, inspect your power tools. If you are a true DIY novice, you'll either buy new tools or borrow them. If you're borrowing, be sure to inspect tools for frayed power cords and cracked or broken casings. Never use a damaged product; have it repaired by a qualified technician or replace it.

8. Take care of your tools

You don't abuse your hair dryer or stand mixer, so don't abuse your DIY tools and gadgets. Never carry tools by the cords, and never yank the cord when removing it from a receptacle. When disconnecting the cord, always grasp the plug, not the wire. Also, keep the cord away from heat, oil and sharp edges.

9. Be aware of your surroundings

If you're working with others, make sure you know where they are at all times to prevent accidents or injuries. Be aware of who enters your work area, and keep children and pets away from tools and projects.

10. A clean workspace is a safe workspace

Properly store or place power tools, sharp tools or dangerous materials on high shelves out of a child's reach. Or, consider placing them in a locked storage cabinet. Lastly, make sure your workspace is well-lit.

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