Do-It-Yourself Dangers

IMAGE Despite the countless warning labels on tools and the liberal safety advice provided to do-it-yourselfers, many are still injured. Try the following four-step approach to home project safety to help you keep all your fingers and avoid unplanned trips to the hospital. We have all heard plenty of tips on how to do home projects safely, whether they were wisdom imparted by a parent or friendly advice offered in discussions with fellow tinkerers. And we have all seen those caveats that come with tools and equipment hundreds of times: "Be sure power is disconnected before…(fill in the blank)" Or: "Set up ladder properly to reduce slip and overload hazards." And even: "Don't use this product without proper ventilation."

Injuries? What Injuries?

Most of us could recite these warnings in our sleep. So why is it that so many people get hurt—and some even maimed—working on do-it-yourself projects?A study of nearly 300 amateur and professional woodworkers found that more than two-thirds had suffered injuries using common wood-shop tools. Nearly a third of those surveyed had injuries severe enough to require medical attention, and 5% had to have partial amputation of fingers or a hand. Offending devices included manual tools such as hammers and chisels and power tools such as table saws, jointer-planers, and drill presses. And those are just injuries caused by woodworking tools!Other potential culprits include any type of powered cutting equipment, ladders, scaffolding, and car jacks. The variety of injuries and trauma suffered by amateur tradesmen is as wide as the array of tools and equipment that cause them: strains, burns, breaks, gouges, piercings, cuts, lacerations, electric shock, poisoning, crushing, and even death.

The 4 Elements of Do-It-Yourself Safety

So how do you protect yourself and your limbs? Well, reading and following all the instructions and warning labels on tools and shop products is certainly a good start. But rather than also memorizing a litany of do's and don'ts and sayings like "measure twice, cut once," why not try a different approach to do-it-yourself safety? Here's a simple way of assessing projects that will help you foresee potential hazards and avoid them. Introducing the 4 elements of do-it-yourself safety: fire, air, water, and earth.Each of the 4 elements represents 1 or more types of hazard. Analyze your next project in terms of these elements and see if you don't recognize familiar perils and perhaps discover some new ones.

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