Smart DIY: Using the Right Safety Gear

Homeowners are courageous folks. Because of the economic downturn, the growth of home improvement stores and the way so many cable TV shows make project look so easy, more and more home maintenance and repair issues are taken on by weekend warriors hoping to do the job themselves and save a few bucks in the process. Unfortunately, as Consumer Reports notes, one out of every five DIYers will sustain some sort of injury along the way. The numbers are sobering. For example, in 2009 alone, more than 246,000 emergency room visits in America were due to falls associated with the use of ladders and step-stools.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that every day, approximately 2,000 Americans suffer eye injuries. Many of these accidents are caused by particles expelled by power tools or made airborne due to wind. And, with lawn mowers and trimmers causing plenty more injuries due to lacerations from branches, rocks and other high-speed debris, you’re well advised to have the following safety items on hand before you start working outside on your house and yard. [click image below for video]

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Safety Goggles/Glasses: Whether you’re using a weed trimmer to cutting a piece of plywood with a circular power saw, wearing safety goggles or glasses during home maintenance activities is highly recommended. And, if you’re handling chemicals such as paint thinner, goggles are a must, according to DIY HGTV. Look for models of eyewear that cover the sides of your eyes as well as the front.

Dust Mask: If you’re about to do yard work at the height of pollen season or have a dusty garage that needs cleaning out, wear a properly fitted dust mask. Your respiratory system will thank you afterwards! Note that dust masks will filter out nuisance dust particles only if they’re worn correctly, so read the mask manufacturer’s instructions carefully before commencing work. For those working with toxic chemicals or gases, consult the CDC’s description of respirators to find out more about safely breathing around more dangerous contaminants.

Face Shield: For jobs involving grinding or cutting with power tools that shoot out extensive sparks or wood chips, a face shield is a highly recommended piece of safety gear. A good visor made of polycarbonate that fits your head well is the way to go. But don’t forget that this is a form of secondary protection for your eyes, so wear safety glasses, as well.

Ear Plugs/Safety Muffs: Equipment such as chainsaws and belt sanders can emit noise in excess of 100 decibels. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, extended exposure to these noise levels can result in temporary or even permanent loss of hearing, so remember to protect yourself by wearing earplugs or safety muffs.

Work Gloves: Different jobs require different work gloves. Here, the rule of thumb—and rest of your fingers—is: Anytime you’re handling materials that can cut, burn or otherwise injure your hands, wear properly fitting work gloves.

Work Boots: Buy a good pair of work boots with non-skid soles, especially if you’ll be doing work on your roof. And, if you’ll be moving heavy objects like cement blocks, purchase steel-toed work boots. After the first brick drops unexpectedly on your foot, you’ll be glad you made the investment.

Knee Pads: For all types of garden and roofing work that require time spent kneeling, use a pair of foam knee pads like the ones masons and carpenters wear. This bit of safety gear contributes to not only saving your knees, but also your back from excruciating pain and injury.

Ladder: For any job off the ground, it’s critical to have a properly working ladder. Watch out for power lines overhead, and be sure to read the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s information on Portable Ladder Safety to know how to use one safely.

First Aid Kit: Always keep a well-stocked first aid kit in a readily accessible spot. In addition to antiseptic wipes and fresh bandages, it’s advisable to have an eyewash kit and list of emergency telephone numbers on hand, as well.

Whether you’re cleaning out gutters or putting up a new fence, you deserve to enjoy the fruits of your labors… not to be injured due to them. So keep the above items on hand, and think, “Safety first,” when doing all of your DIY projects.