How to Avoid Do-It-Yourself Project Injuries

Tough economic times call for even tougher measures -- and for many homeowners this means getting hands-on with home improvement projects. Although DIY projects can save money in theory, they also may result in a trip to the hospital if safety precautions aren't followed.

According to recent statistics, 85 percent of homeowners are tackling projects around the house rather than hiring outside contractors. In this difficult economy, emergency rooms are seeing an influx of people coming in with injuries ranging from lacerations to puncture wounds from nail guns.

John and Jane Do-It-Yourselfer has easy access to home-improvement supplies and tools at the local home center. He or she also may be inspired by any of the myriad shows on television instructing individuals to give renovations a try. However, many homeowners are not schooled in proper safety procedures or do not know how to use tools correctly. This is a recipe for injury.

Common injuries include:

* falls from ladders or scaffolding

* hand and finger injuries -- including amputation -- from power saws and grinder/sanders

* nail gun injuries; since 1991, these injuries have increased by 200 percent

* eye injuries and breathing difficulties

Homeowners should consider the risks of improvements before beginning. They should also take precautions to do improvements in the safest manner possible.

* Always read the manufacturers' safety information and usage guidelines for any tools before the are put to use.

* Turn off electrical current to rooms and outlets prior to doing any electrical repairs.

* Wear proper safety equipment, including goggles, dust masks or respirators, boots, and gloves.

* Store chemicals in a locked cabinet or on a high shelf out of reach of children and pets.

* Be cautious of power cords. Always unplug tools and turn off the switches when the item is not in use.

* Do not climb past the top rung of ladders. Do not use furniture or stacked items as a ladder.

* Jobs such as electrical work, roof work, gas projects, or major plumbing issues are better left to a skilled contractor.

* Make sure drill bits and saw blades are sharp. Dull tools can result in injuries.

* Keep fire extinguishers and a good first aid kit readily available at all times.

There is no cost savings that make risking a disability worth it. If a project is beyond an individual's scope of ability, hire a professional instead.