Basic Safety Rules To Remember During Renovations

A five-day weekend is the perfect opportunity to tackle a large-scale renovation project, but it's also the perfect time to remember not to cause an accident. Here are the key principles you should always bear in mind before embarking on a little DIY.

Safety during DIY projects really does largely come down to common sense: thinking about what you're doing and not rushing into something foolish. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean accidents don't happen. According to one Australian Bureau of Statistics study, being cut with a knife, tool or other implement is the most common form of injury in Australia. Experience also tells: the older you are, the less likely you are to have sustained an injury, the ABS found. Bear these rules in mind and don't add yourselves to those statistics, whatever your age.

5. Haste is your enemy

Not every DIY task can be completed in a hurry, but it's when you want to get things done quickly that you cut corners and take risks. Yes, it feels like a nuisance to have to descend the ladder and move it so you can paint the next section of the roof, but it will feel like much more of a nuisance if you fall off the ladder because you're stretching too far. Yes, it may take longer to make sure those screws have gone in completely, but doing so will make it much less likely that stuff will fall apart later on. If you over-estimate how long a job will take, you can enjoy a pleasant surprise at the end. If you under-estimate, you'll have nothing but stress. Picture by Charles Kaiser

4. Use appropriate safety equipment

For a whole range of DIY projects, your best friends are a good pair of goggles and a well-fitted pair of gloves — that immediately eliminates many of the potential risks associated with all kinds of projects, especially where heat or flames are involved. In virtually all contexts, wearing solid shoes is also a good idea (I've been known to do indoor painting barefoot in summer, but if I do stub my toe I can't blame anyone else, now can I?) Picture by Carolina Biological

3. Organise and tidy as you go

When you can see a piece of furniture (or whatever) start to take shape, it's all-too-tempting to push ahead and leave the spare bits, wrapping and other gumpf lying around. However, tidying as you go is a better idea: it means there's not stuff lying around to trip or stab yourself on, and makes it less likely you'll misplace some vital element. It also ensures you take breaks, which can stop you rushing ahead and making an error.

A sub-theme of this principle is to clear out any young kids who are bystanders if you're doing something potentially risky that you haven't tried before. Teaching your children DIY by example is a good idea, but you need to pick your moments. Picture by Lauri Rantala

2. Recognise when you need assistance

While there are many DIY projects that can be carried out single-handed, there are plenty that can't. If you're dealing with large or heavy items (doors, bedframes, and windows all spring to mind), then you need to line up a friend or partner or housemate to help out. The alternative is strain, pain and no gain whatsoever. Picture by warhead

1. Read the blanking manual

Especially if you've got plenty of experience, it's tempting to ignore instructions on a new tool or try assembling a piece of kit furniture without looking at the assembly information. This is a false economy in time management terms, and a big risk in safety terms. On a PC, clicking the wrong button is unlikely to physically injure you; on a power tool, that's all too likely. So as we advise in many other contexts around here: RTFM. If the manual doesn't make sense (and yes, we know that happens), get online and see if anyone has experienced similar issues and can offer a fix.

What other safety rules do you view as essential for DIY? Tell us in the comments.

Lifehacker's weekly Reno 101 column covers the basics of renovation and DIY.


    +1 for RTFM!

    6. Identify hazards.
    Make sure that you are not sanding lead paint or cutting through asbestos.

    Anyone working in Australian industry now would be very familiar with job safety. The best advice is to apply the same approach you are asked to do at work to jobs around the house. ie stop and think about the task, id the possible hazards and take measures to mitigate or eliminate them. If you can't then maybe it is time to pay a professional to do the job.

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