Information and Advice for Completing Home Improvement Projects Safely – Health and Safety for DIY

DIY Doctor presents our Health and Safety project tutorials to help ensure you complete your DIY project in a safe and efficient way. Whether you are concerned about asbestos removal, fire protection or electrical regulations, you will find these guides offer clear and concise advice written by people who have decades of experience in the building and DIY sectors.

Available DIY How To Projects

Safety Tips for DIY

It is important to think about safety before your start your project; here are a few general tips and suggestions that we think you should follow as a minimum:

  1. What could go wrong? We're not saying that you should do a formal risk assessment before you start doing some DIY, but stop, think about what you're going to do and work out what are the likely accidents that might happen. Simply by thinking about these will mean that you're less likely to have that accident because it is on your mind, and you can also think of ways to be a little safer and what precautions you could take.
  2. All the gear – if you have the right tools for the job, things are less likely to go wrong. We recommend the tools that you will need on most of our project pages, and this section includes great descriptions of the safety clothing that you should consider buying. Also with good quality tools, you will be able to get the job done quicker and to a better standard; have a look at our tool store for our selection of tools for DIY jobs.
  3. When cutting with sharp tools such as knives – always try to cut away from you. If you slip you’re much less likely to cut yourself.
  4. If working with electrics – always, always turn off the power and remove the fuse or circuit breaker. Always unplug any appliance that you're working on.
  5. Wear the right thing – take off jewellery, and loose clothing that could get caught in power tools, or catch on something if you fall. Wear the right safety clothing for the job. Safety goggles and masks are really useful things to keep in you tool box.
  6. Ladders – these are the most dangerous things in terms of accidents. Make sure you read our ladder safety project now (see above). If you use one regularly thinking about getting a ladder safety stop or ladder wall anchor.
  7. Don't Rush – accidents happen when you're under time pressure. Take it slowly and give yourself time to complete the project without having to rush. You'll find that you will do a much better job too.
  8. Watch out for asbestos – This is dangerous stuff and please read our asbestos project if you think you have some in your home.
  9. Chemical Safety – make sure that all chemicals are put away safely after you finish, and are kept out of reach of others while you are working. They can cause serious injury or be fatal to children and pets.
  10. Think about others – It is not just you that could be at risk so think of how your project might endanger other; cables can trip people up, don't drop or spill things on passersby, beware of things that might ricochet, like a nail if it breaks or is miss hit.

Lifting Heavy Objects Safely – 10 tips for carrying heavy objects safely:

As some point when doing DIY or working in the garden you will almost certainly have to lift or carry a heavy object. It is very important that you do this correctly as this is a very common way to injure yourself. Lifting incorrectly is a major cause of back problems and this can easily be prevented with a little care and attention.

Here are our tips to make lifting heavy objects a little safer:

  1. Don't rush in: A little time spent thinking about what you are going to do will be time well spent. Consider if you need some assistance, is there anything you can use to make the job easier, such as a trolley, and where are you going to put the object at the end of the journey, or at rest stops if you need them.
  2. Wear the right thing: Don't wear loose clothing that might catch or trip you up. Also don't wear clothing that is too tight as this will constrict you and make it hard to move.
  3. Get in Position: Make sure that you're in a stable position, feet either side of the load and spread to get a good balance during the lift. Remember that you might have to move your feet as you lift the load. Keep the object as close to your body as you can as this will reduce stress and strain.
  4. Get the load in position: Slide the object to be carried near to you if you can't get to it yourself. Arrange it and yourself in the best possible position to make the lift.
  5. Get a good grip: As well as keeping the heavy load as close to your body as possible, you should ensure that you can get a solid hold. You should keep the heaviest part of the object nearest to you, ideally next to your waist.
  6. Body Position: You should maintain a good posture:
    • Keep your back straight, with only a slight bend. The bend and lift should come from your knees and hips.
    • When lifting keep you back straight – don't be tempted to bend your back further as you straighten you legs in the lift; this will strain your back.
    • Look up and forward when carrying – try not to look down at the floor.
  7. Move Smooth: Take it slow and smooth as jerking and staggering around in an uncontrolled way is likely to lead to accidents
  8. Don't do the twist: Twisting will put more strain through the body, especially if your back is bent. Move you feet to turn
  9. Be realistic: Only lift what is feasible, and remember that you can lift a lot more than it is safe to do – don't take the risk; do it in two loads or get some help. Different people can manage different loads, so be realistic about what you can carry
  10. Rest stops: Take regular breaks. Stop and readjust your stance and grip whenever necessary. Put the object down and slide it if possible.

For more information and excellent advice about manual handling there is a comprehensive document that is available from the Health and Safety Executive which describes good handling techniques for lifting.

The most dangerous tools for DIY

The most dangerous tools by the number of injuries that take place are according to the Home Accident Surveillance System (2002) are:

  • Knives and scalpels (21,300 accidents in the UK each year)
  • Saws (15,100)
  • Grinders (6,400)
  • Hammers (5,800)
  • Chisels (3,900)
  • Screwdrivers (3,400)
  • Power Drills (3,000)
  • Axes (2,200)
  • Planes (2,100)
  • Welding Equipment (2,000).

For more information on this and other common accidents see the ROSPA website.

Carry out Safe DIY Projects

Every year around 200,000 DIY enthusiast end up in hospital – don't be one of them! Take a little time to prepare and work out how you are going to go about your project safely. Stay safe and enjoy your DIY.