Tool Time Safety: Use caution when tackling home improvement projects

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As the number of people choosing to perform home improvement projects on their own continues to rise, so does the number of injuries. What can begin as a dream project can end up as a nightmare if aspiring do-it-yourselfers are not properly prepared.
According to the National Safety Council, hand and power saws cause over 100,000 injuries a year and hammers rack up 36,000 injuries alone. Almost 120,000 injuries a year were also

As the number of people choosing to perform home improvement projects on their own continues to rise, so does the number of injuries. What can begin as a dream project can end up as a nightmare if aspiring do-it-yourselfers are not properly prepared.

According to the National Safety Council, hand and power saws cause over 100,000 injuries a year and hammers rack up 36,000 injuries alone. Almost 120,000 injuries a year were also reported to be cause by home repairs and construction materials.

So should the threat of connecting hammer to thumbnail stop you from tackling a home improvement project? Probably not but for those who have ever wept real tears from such an injury, here are some common sense safety refreshers:

  • WORK WITHIN YOUR ABILITY – On my national radio show The Money Pit, I am often amused and amazed at the guts of those who tackle home improvements they have no business trying. Perhaps the most vital piece of advice I give is to NEVER underestimate the difficulty of the job. If you feel it a project is beyond your level of skill, call in a professional. While lots doing home improvement projects on your own can save money, the economics don’t add up if an emergency room visit becomes necessary.

  • AVOID SHORT CUTS – Home improvements are a labor of love and can’t be rushed. If you decide to take on a project, however small: don’t rush or take short-cuts.

  • PLANNING MAKES PERFECT - Remember-planning out your project can save time, money and maybe even your life. But if you are tempted to by-pass obvious safety advice-consider the following: More haste, less speed. Don’t under-estimate how long a job will take. If you do begin to run out of time, don’t be tempted to rush or take a short cut. Fatigue is a big factor in many accidents, so take time for a break.

  • READ AND HEED - Read all instructions and warnings, especially if you’re using a piece of equipment or product for the first time. If you’ve bought a new tool or product, don’t neglect to send in the registration card. Registering your ownership with the manufacturer may be the only way they’ll know how to reach you in the event a safety problem is discovered with the product, and a recall or modification becomes necessary.

  • AVOID MAKING DO - Choosing the right tools and protective equipment for the job is critical. Slipping a pipe on the end of a wrench to increase leverage may work in the movies, but if the wrench snaps a serious injury may occur. If you don’t own the right tool, consider renting it. Renting tools is surprisingly cheap and can make the job safer.

  • NOW HEAR THIS – Hearing protection is a must when using power tools. Tool noise can easily exceed the hearing damage threshold. If noise from tools is so loud you must raise your voice to be heard, you’re taking risks with your hearing.

  • WATCH YOUR EYES – Hospitals treat over 25,000 patients with injuries related to power tool use each year. Workshop grinders, drills and saws are among those named most often. In addition, caustic chemicals used for cleaning, painting or polishing cause a significant number of eye injuries as well. Keep in mind that injuries can occur not only to the person working with the tool or chemical, but "helpers" who are hurt by flying debris and particles as well as caustic chemicals. Both people should take eye safety precautions

  • CLEAR THE AIR – When tackling projects involving dust, paint or other pollutants, protect your lungs by using an appropriate respirator mask. A good rule of thumb is if you can smell or taste the substance you are working with, you will need respiratory protection.

    Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show’s podcast or sign-up for Tom’s free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program’s website at www.moneypit.com.

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