(BPT) - As we continue to grapple with COVID-19, people spending more time at home are tackling more and more home improvement projects. Home Depot and Lowe’s have reported historically large rises in quarterly revenues as housebound Americans take on do-it-yourself (DIY) projects for their inside and outside spaces.
However, each year, thousands of people end up in emergency rooms from accidents that occur while working on DIY tasks. “Safety should be a top priority in any home improvement project, especially when it comes to protecting your head and spine,” said Craig Hospital’s Gary Maerz, MD, MBA, who specializes in treating people who have sustained a spinal cord and/or brain injury.
Falls cause about 31% of spinal cord injuries and 48% of traumatic brain injury-related emergency department visits. According to the National Safety Council, falls are the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths and the top cause of nonfatal injuries.
Dr. Maerz says that homeowners should think twice about cleaning out their gutters or getting on the roof to decorate for the holidays. “Sometimes it is best to just call a pro. And it isn’t just the obvious activities; keep in mind that a fall can also happen simply from reaching a high cabinet or replacing a bulb in a ceiling fixture.”
Before starting a home improvement project keep in mind the following safety tips:
Secure Your Work Zone
Be aware of your surroundings, especially if others are entering the area, and make sure to keep young children and pets out of the work zone. Pick up sharp objects and keep the area clean of debris.
Use the Buddy System
If you are working on a project that requires more than one person, don’t attempt to do it alone. For projects that you can tackle solo, make sure another adult in the home or a neighbor knows your whereabouts.
Wear Protective Gear
Be practical and sensible about your attire. Put away the sandals and flip flops, and wear closed-toe shoes instead. Avoid wearing jewelry or clothes that may potentially get caught in any equipment. Wear goggles to protect your eyes and earplugs to protect your hearing.
Only use a ladder or stepladder after you have inspected it. Before climbing on, place the ladder in a safe environment free of clutter on a firm, level base. Maintain three points of contact (hands or feet) and step up one rung at a time. Don’t overreach or allow more than one person at a time on the ladder. Stay near the middle and don’t use the top two steps on either a ladder or a stepladder.
Power Tool Safety
Never leave a power tool unattended. If you have to leave the work zone, make sure to unplug all power tools and keep them out of reach of children and pets. Before you use a power tool, check the cord and/or extension cord for any cracks. If you find any frayed wires, replace the cord. You can become electricity's path to the ground if you are touching water that touches electricity. Never run any cord through water, including puddles.
A well-stocked first-aid kit can help you respond effectively to common injuries and emergencies. Check your first-aid kit(s) regularly to be sure flashlight batteries work, and replace supplies that have expired or been used up.
Following some simple precautions can help ensure a DIY project goes smoothly. “Remember, it only takes a second to experience an accident — and it only takes a moment of preparation to help keep yourself and others safe,” said Dr. Maerz.