DIY Safety Tips

John Drengenberg, Consumer Safety Director for Underwriters Laboratories in suburban Northbrook has some DIY safety tips for beginners and veterans.

Safety Tips for the Amateur DIY'er

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.

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.

Incorporate safety goggles into your DIY style. Wear safety glasses to protect from debris and avoid jewelry while using power tools. Don't wear watches, bracelets and long sleeves as they can get caught in moving parts. If operating a loud power tool, wear earplugs to minimize damage to your ears.

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 instruction. Also, be sure to check the switch on a power tool or garden appliance to make sure it's "OFF" before you plug it in.

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

As a rule, be sure to inspect your power tools. If you're re-using last year's power tools, be sure to inspect them for frayed power cords and cracked or broken casings. If the product is damaged, have it repaired by a qualified technician, or replace it.

Use the right extension cords. If you're tackling outdoor DIY home improvement projects, make sure extension cords are rated for outdoor use.

Look for the UL Mark. Always look for the UL Mark before purchasing a power tool, garden appliance or electrical product. The UL Mark means representative samples of that product have been tested to stringent safety standards with regard to fire, electric shock and related safety hazards.

Safety Tips for the Veteran DIY'er

Avoid overconfidence. Products are made certain ways and have safety features for specific reasons. Never try to use a product in a different way than it is intended, alter it in any way, or remove safety features such as blade guards or electric plug grounding pins.

It takes two hands to use a power tool. Use clamps or a vise to hold work in place. It's safer than using your hands and frees both to operate the tool. Even when using a conventional hand tool, be sure to watch where you place your hands.

A blade guard is a safe guard against injuries. Buy a saw with the guard you feel most comfortable using and keep it on the saw at all times. Before operating saws with guards, make sure they are in place and in proper working order.

Dispose of damaged saw blades. To avoid injury, immediately discard saw blades that are chipped, bent, or in any way damaged.

Know your limits. Only tackle those DIY home improvement projects that you feel comfortable handling. Some projects are best left to trained professionals and are not worth the risk.

Take your time. Rushing to finish a job leads can lead to carelessness, accidents or injuries.

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