The DIY season is approaching and with it the unknown dangers of personal home improvements.

Chemical poisoning, blindness, cuts and amputations, skull fractures and even loss of hearing – these are just some of the potential injuries that can arise when carrying out DIY in the home, especially when safety equipment fails to provide the protection it promises.

So how safe are you really when tackling home improvements? Many incorrectly assume that all safety products such as hard hats, safety glasses, respirator masks, hearing protectors and safety harnesses sold  by Australian retailers meet mandatory standards, but this is not always the case. Particularly when a product has been developed overseas, some manufacturers and supplies can be unaware of the Australian Standards and thus a lot of products don’t meet the mandatory standards.

A cheap pair of safety glasses might not be able to withstand the pressure of a fragment of steel hurtling through the air at speed; a respirator mask may not provide the expected barrier to hazardous chemicals or materials – this is why anyone carrying out renovations this “home improvement season” must take additional caution when shopping for safety items.

Richard Donarski, health and safety expert, provides his top five precautions to take to ensure DIY safety to make these holidays a safer time for everyone…

  1. Ask an expert. While all equipment looks the same, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it does the job. For example, a particular respirator mask may only be compatible with certain chemicals or materials. When unsure, ask the retail staff and provide them with the exact details of what you intend to do. Don’t take a gamble, especially when working with tools or chemicals.
  2. Purchase certified safety equipment only. This equipment will be branded with an appropriate certification mark, the Australian Standard reference, and should include the name of the organisation, the date it was certified and a Certification Licence number. Be aware that not all products that claim to be certified are to an Australian standard. To be safe, look out for the Five Ticks ‘Certified Product’ StandardsMark™ or enter the Certification Licence number online.
  3. Be careful when buying second hand. Do you really know what that piece of equipment has been through? For example, a hard hat may look okay, but if it’s been left out in the sun every day, the chances are that its protection is nowhere near the level it should be due to strong UV rays weakening its shell. Additionally, second hand DIY equipment may come with zero instructions.
  4. Work with a partner. Find a partner who can share a load of the work or observe what you’re doing. A second set of eyes can assess risks that you may have initially missed.
  5. If you’re tired, stop. It’s tempting to want to continue on a project well into the night, until it’s near complete. It’s best, however, to allocate yourself time periods where you will work on a project. Ensure that you’re feeling refreshed and have a clear head. If you’re only a fraction of the way through the job but feel distracted or drowsy, then stop. This is the prime time for mistakes to happen. Clear away any hazards such as cables, tools or debris and start again when you feel able.

Stay safe this festive season and remember to keep hydrated when performing tasks of physical labour – dehydration is another very real risk!

What are your DIY plans over the holidays? Any scary DIY safety stories? Let us know!