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Make Safety Part of Your DIY Blueprint

Home improvement accidents send hundreds of thousands of people to the ER each year. As more and more consumers are tackling do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement projects to save money, safety should be part of their home improvement plan. Whether you're an amateur or veteran DIY'er, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) - the 115-year-old product safety testing organization  - encourages everyone to take safety precautions before climbing up that ladder or switching on that power tool.

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.
  • Pay attention to ladder length. Always use a ladder that is long enough for the task at hand. A great number of ladder accidents are the result of using a ladder that is too short.
  • 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.
  • Keep your tools in shape. Never carry tools by the cord and never yank the cord when removing it from a receptacle. When disconnecting the cord, always grasp the plug, not the wire. Also, keep the cord away from heat, oil and sharp edges.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. If you're working with someone else, make sure you know where they are at all times to prevent accidents or injuries. Be aware of who enters your work area and keep children and pets away from tools and projects.
  • A clean workspace is a safe workspace. Properly store or place power tools, sharp tools or dangerous materials on high shelves out of a child's reach. Or, consider placing them in a locked storage cabinet. Also make sure your workspace is well-lit.
  • Before you mow, have your owner's manual in tow. When pulling out the lawn mower for the first time this year, refresh your memory and read the owner's manual. Also know how to stop the machine incase of an emergency.
  • If you have a gas-powered mower, store the gas in a UL Classified safety can.
  • Always start the mower outdoors. Never operate it where carbon monoxide (CO) can collect, such as in a closed garage, storage shed or basement.
  • Do not operate an electrical or gas-powered lawn mower on wet grass.
  • 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.
  • Position yourself safely when using a power saw. Never stand directly behind the saw. Always stand off to the side, keeping your hands out of the path of the saw blade.
  • Prevent against power saw "kickback." If a saw blade begins to bind while making a cut, immediately stop the cut and hold the saw and work piece completely still. Wait for the saw blade to stop before pulling away from a cut.
  • 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.
  • Use proper ventilation when painting. Be sure to open all doors and windows and use fans when painting indoors. If the area cannot be properly ventilated, wear a respirator and work in short intervals.