Home Projects: Do It Yourself—Safely
“Every year, there are multitudes of minor and serious injuries from home improvement projects and even crafts — this year, the risk may be higher with more people taking on projects while they spend more time at home during COVID-19,” says board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Phillips. "From roof repair and landscaping to do-it-yourself home décor, home projects can be fun and rewarding to accomplish, but they also come with some safety risks, so I wanted to share a list of guidelines for completing projects safely."
Be sure to follow the safety tips listed below to help avoid injuries when taking on a project.
- Use the right tools—the right way: Have the proper tools for your project and know how to use them safely. Even hammering improperly can mean broken fingers. With scissors, craft knives, and other small tools, deep cuts and even nerve injuries are common. Keep sharp objects away from children.
- Pay total attention to power tools: Drills, saws, sewing machines, lawn mowers, and weed whackers—be sure you know exactly how to operate a machine before using it. Make sure your machine is stable and holding your complete focus, and do not put your hand or arm near drill bits, moving blades, or needles before it is turned off.
- Dress for the job: Have on eye protection, a dust mask, gloves, and proper attire as needed (no dangling jewelry, loose sleeves, or baggy clothes that may trip you or get caught). If you have long hair, wear it up and out of the way. Shorts, bare feet, and sandals are also ill-advised for most tasks, so be careful with leg- and footwear.
- Keep your space clean: Make sure you do your work in a well-lit, clean, and dry area with stable surfaces. You should place any tool not being used in a safe location to help you avoid tripping injuries, like bruises and strains as well as wrist and ankle sprains.
- Ladders are no laughing matter: Avoid fall-related injuries, such as fractures, shoulder or elbow dislocations, rotator cuff tears, or more severe injuries, by placing ladders on a flat surface. Keep the weight centered, do not overextend to reach any item, and have someone hold the ladder.
- Take a break when you need one: Take breaks and vary your tasks to help prevent strains in your back, forearm, and upper arm muscles, as well as chronic injuries, like shoulder tendonitis (tendinitis), cubital tunnel syndrome, or tennis elbow. Listen to your body, especially if heavy lifting is involved.
"If you sustain an injury while working with tools or doing heavy lifting and you feel any numbness, pain, or have loss of movement in your arm or other extremities, seek medical attention," says board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bart McKinney. "Serious injuries should be seen by a specialist as soon as possible.”