Safety when doing DIY

If you are a DIY lover, then safety is paramount in all your projects. Read more on common DIY injuries and what to do if they occur.

Electric shock

Electric shock can range from relatively mild – from a faulty telephone line, to a deadly shock – from the back of a TV set. An electric shock’s severity depends on a range of factors such as the current’s strength and the amount of time the patient was exposed to it. The amount of insulation protecting the patient (if standing on a wet surface – the shock will tend to be greater), the path the current took (if from the hand to the feet, it passes through the chest and therefore past the heart). For instance, if the patient has a weak heart, they could die from a shock that another person would survive.

If the patient has gripped the appliance shocking them, switch off the power to it. Smother any clothing that is burning or smouldering. Check that the patient’s heart is beating and that they are breathing. If either is absent, call for medical assistance and in the meantime administer artificial ventilation and/or chest compression treatment. Once the heartbeat and breathing have resumed, place the patient in the recovery position.

Electrical power is great, when used properly and treated with respect, however accidents can occur when something you thought was off, is actually on.

  1. Always switch off the power and unplug any appliance before dismantling it.
  2. Always mow AWAY from the power cord when using an electric mower; the same applies when using an electric chain saw, trimmer or any mains-powered tool.

Wear protective gear!

Fumes, dust particles, loud noise, flying fragments etc can cause major health problems and damage your hearing, for instance. There is a wide range of accessories that will protect your respiratory system, ears, eyes and skin from injury or damage. Ensure when working with materials that give off fumes or dust that you have the correct filter in the mask, and when in doubt, check.

Choose quality – even the most expensive pair of goggles to protect your eyes when using an angle grinder, or muffs to protect your hearing when routing, are far cheaper than the medical bills you would need to pay in the event of a problem.

Mind those eyes

Foreign objects in the eye are probably among the most common problems we face, and fortunately in most cases they are little more than an irritant. The other common problem is that of chemicals, liquids or fumes affecting the eyes.

If an object is in the eye, stop the patient rubbing it – they’ll want to, but it will only make the problem worse.

Tilt the patient’s head back and gently pull the eyelid back. If you can see the object, try to wash it out with sterile eyewash in an eye irrigator. If that doesn’t work, gently pour lukewarm tap water from a jug over the eye. If you still have no success, carefully remove it with the corner of a damp clean cloth, or wetted cotton bud.

If you cannot see the object, or cannot remove it (if it is embedded in the eye, do not attempt to remove it), cover the eye with an eye pad and seek medical attention.

In the case of a chemical or liquid in the eye, irrigate it to wash the substance out of the eye. Even if the patient is comfortable afterwards, it is as well to have the eye examined to ensure no permanent damage has been done.

The bottom line is, wear safety glasses, or in the case of working at the braai, keep your head inclined away from frying fat, and/or cover the braaing food with a purpose-made cover.

Gas and fume inhalation

The golden rule is always work in a well-ventilated space. If possible out in the open air, when using anything that gives off fumes. This includes working on your car – if the weather is bad and you’re working on the engine, open the garage door, otherwise you could end up with carbon monoxide poisoning.

You should also wear a facemask with the appropriate filter. Having said that, cleaning fluids, fires, leaks, electrical shorts and a host of other causes can produce fumes or gasses that can harm.

If a person has inhaled fumes, the first thing to do is remove them from the source. Get them out into the open air and lie them down with their head lower than the rest of the body. If they have stopped breathing, commence artificial ventilation immediately and call for medical assistance.

Cut the grass – not your toes!

Cut the Grass Not your Toes

First of all, never turn the mower on its side to remove an overload of cutting, while the power is still on. Turn it off, and wait until the blades have come to a complete standstill before investigating the problem. This is particularly important when using an electric mower as some types take a few seconds to come to a standstill.

If using a petrol-powered mower, pull the lead off the spark plug before clearing the blades – turning them while the engine is still hot and with the lead connected could result in the motor starting up.

In the case of an electric mower, also do not use it in the rain or while the lawn is still damp from early morning dew – if there is a fault in the wiring, you might never have to mow a lawn again. And a small tip – work away from the cord – cutting through one tends to put a damper on your day.

Mower switches are designed to be ‘on’ under positive pressure from the user’s hand. This is a safety precaution. So, if the switch develops a fault, do not bypass it – have it replaced.

Push the mower away from you, never pull it towards yourself, and when using an edge trimmer, work away from the cord by keeping it behind you – also ensure it doesn’t snag on anything – and wear stout shoes, your toes are fine just the way they are. Deckle edging them will detract from their appearance and you won’t walk properly.



Pesticides should be treated with caution. Use only as directed and ensure pets are kept away from treated areas if you are using a pesticide that can harm animals.

If you have to mix up an amount and have some left over, do not store it in a cool-drink bottle. If a child is able to reach it and is thirsty, they may try to drink it. The golden rule in any event is keep all pesticides locked up and out of reach of young children.

One further point, if you use a container such as a bucket for mixing pesticides or any chemicals for the garden, mark it clearly so that you use only that container, and to ensure that it is not used for any other purpose. Even a tiny residue of a pesticide could be deadly or harmful if it finds its way into your pet’s drinking water, for instance.

A shattering experience

When you need to remove a broken windowpane that is in a number of pieces, apply a few lengths of duct tape to it before starting. It will keep the pieces together so that they won’t fall and shatter even more when they hit the ground. This is particularly important if you have a flower bed below the window – at some time or other you’ll be working in the garden and could be cut by shards of glass.

To ensure an easy clean-up, before working on the windowpane, spread lots of newspaper on the ground, and on the other side of the pane – inside – so that even tiny fragments of glass are easily retrieved.

When discarding glass, the best bet is to drop it off at your local refuse/recycling facility, but if putting it in your wheelie bin for collection, wrap it all up in multiple layers of newspaper and boldly label it ‘BROKEN GLASS’ in the biggest letters possible.

DIY Roof Safety

DIY Roof Safety

A sloped roof is a dangerous place to work, so tie yourself up there. Take a length of strong rope – strong enough to support your weight – and tie one end to a stout anchor, such as a large tree or veranda column for instance, on the opposite side of the house to the one on which you’re working.

Fling the other end over the roof and once you are up there, tie the rope around your waist so that even if you do slip, you won’t fall to the ground and injure yourself.

  1. Do not tie the end of the rope to any vehicle – your family could forget where you are and decide to take the vehicle out for a drive.
  2. Do not get on the roof if it looks like lightning. If lightning does strike, you might be in the path. Incidentally, if lightning is about, and your hair stands on end (as a result of static electricity) you are in great danger. Get down and under cover immediately.
  3. Do not wear loose-fitting footwear or a pair with soles of a material that do not grip well. Wear footwear that fastens securely, and has rubber soles or similar that give your feet a good purchase on the roofing material – be it tiles or corrugated iron.
  4. Do not step just anywhere on a roof. Certain roofing materials might not take an adult’s weight in an unsupported area. Place your weight where it will be supported by the timbers below the roofing material – so step on areas where the roofing material is fixed in place with roofing fasteners.
  5. Warn others to stay out of the way directly below where you’re working. You might drop a tool, which could cause an injury if it hits anyone.

The information provided here has been approved by a practicing physician, but it is provided as a guide. Hence, in all medical emergencies, incidents or accidents, if in ANY doubt whatsoever as to the severity of the injury to the patient, seek medical and/or paramedic assistance.’

  1. Provide your name, telephone number and your physical address where the emergency has occurred.
  2. Give a brief description of what has happened and the result… ’My husband fell of a ladder and is unconscious.’
  3. Do not hang up until the operator tells you to – he or she might need further information from you.
  4. Send a family member to the road outside so that they can attract the attention of the medical team – every second lost when they are looking for the address could be vital.