In addition to adhering to smart safety practices in general, safety awareness is even more important when taking on special projects and home improvements. Resources show that accidents in the home account for a vast amount of visits to the hospital anyway, but with the arrival of springtime -- and an eagerness to take on home improvement projects – that figure jumps significantly. So, again, paying attention to what you are doing and heeding the tips below will ensure your personal safety while you perform those home-enhancing projects.
In the home:
Make sure the area you are working in is clear of clutter, toys, decorative items and furniture that can be moved out of the way. Adopting an “I’ll just work around it” approach can easily result in over-reaching and losing your balance – particularly dangerous when handling power tools or working on a ladder. Any professional hired to perform work in your home would request a cleared-out, obstruction-free area, so you do the same.
When using a stepladder, be sure to position it at the appropriate height for the task at hand. This is not always convenient, certainly, as many tasks need to be performed at varying, often awkward points. However, you want to, again, avoid over-stretching and reaching.
Never rest your tools on the floor. Place them on a nearby table, instead.
When using power tools, always route cords and cable around the perimeters of the room – never through the center.
Tidy up as you go through the project; working in a neat area lets you easily see and check on all the elements of the project.
In the workshop:
Keep small children away from potentially dangerous power tools by keeping either storage cabinet, workshop or garage/basement workspace locked.
Always store potentially dangerous power equipment and cutting tools safely.
Use the protective sleeves and guards they came with.
Always disconnect power tools from the electrical supply or remove the battery. Never leave them “live.” Store them in carrying cases or strong, tightly secured boxes.
Most handsaws and chisels come with protective sleeves that easily fit over them for storage. If you lose one, make up another using corrugated cardboard or some other substantial material and heavy-duty tape.
When storing planes, tip them on their sides with the blades retracted. Snap-blade and marking knives should never be left with the blade exposed – especially when stored inside a drawer.
For the best storage solution for your valuable equipment, invest in a good, high-quality toolbox or tool bar that can be fitted to the wall.
Keep your workspace neat and clean and free of spills on the floor. Also, keep the floor clear from obstructions.
Keep a fire extinguisher within easy reach of the bench where you cut, plane, shape, or drill wood. Wood shavings ignite and burn quickly.
Keep bolts, screws, nails and pins arranged by type and size in marked containers for quick and easy access. Never leave them lying around on your work area, since they could mar or puncture a wood project you are working on.
Using power tools:
Always shut off the power supply when changing the bits on your drill or the blades of a saw. If your power tool has an electrical cord, use a circuit-breaking plug.
When using a power tool always be sure of the location of the power cord; ideally, it should be behind you at all times.
When using battery-powered tools, remember that it is always “on.” Disconnect the battery or turn the guide to “off” when changing drill bits or saw blades. Be sure to use the drill bit that is appropriate to the task. Ditto for saw blades when cutting. And always make sure bits and blades are sharp.
Never force a drill bit or saw blade. It is dangerous and completely unnecessary. For drilling tasks, reverse the drill in the hole and stop it completely before removing it. The same goes for sawing: either reverse or stop the cut, and let the blade stop completely.
Always read the operating manual (and safety instructions!) for the tool you are using and familiarize yourself with its functions before using.
Never turn on a piece of power equipment you do not know how to turn off.
Always use the proper gauge extension cord with any power tool or high-wattage equipment.
Use cordless tools when working around water or on grounded components such as plumbing or heating systems.
Always wear appropriate safety clothing – protective shoes or boots, overalls, helmets and other headgear, ear defenders, dust masks, and anything else with an obvious purpose. Again, the pro’s do and so should you.
Shoes should be strong with steel-tipped toes in case you drop something heavy.
Gloves protect hands from chemicals and corrosives as well as from paint and oil stains.
While it is probably not likely that you will need a helmet for interior work, you may want to consider wearing one when working in the attic where roof clearance is low. Also, it may be a wise precaution to take when working high on a ladder, outside, or on the roof.
Overalls are a better choice than old clothes. Because they are all one piece, you needn’t worry about separate garments getting caught up in machinery or snagging on protruding nails or construction apparatuses. Also, overalls contain deep pockets that can keep tools conveniently at hand.
A tool belt is great for suspending the heavier hand tools around your waist, another aspect that is convenient, especially when you are working on a ladder.
Dust masks are always recommended for working with materials and equipment that stir up dirt and dust. But we also think they’re great for simply sweeping up the work area.
Ear guards should protect your hearing when working with extremely noisy jobs, such as masonry drilling, but you should also be able to hear warning noises, as well.
Safety glasses are better than goggles for some people, since goggles can sometimes fog up. Safety glasses should have side protectors as well, since debris can fly at you from any angle, not from just directly in front of you.
Pace yourself and take breaks:
Never rush the job when using power tools. Work at your own pace. Allotting the appropriate time to a task eliminates accidents caused due to haste.
Plan a schedule that contains breaks for food and non-alcoholic drinks. Don’t try to “marathon” to completion of a project.
Don’t work from morning ‘til night on a project. You will tire quickly and that can cause mistakes and accidents due to wandering attention and fatigue. Better to do a task in reasonable increments with scheduled breaks.