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Don’t Be a Home Improvement Disaster

Before you take on a home improvement project, make sure you know how to do it safely.

Do-It-Yourself Safety Tips continued...

Watch your eyes. "Wear some form of eye protection anytime you turn on a drill or any machine," says Angela Mickalide, PhD, the director of education and outreach for the Home Safety Council, a Washington, D.C.-based national nonprofit group that aims to prevent home-related injuries. "Look for a pair that has been impact-tested."

Even wear safety glasses when you are hammering, says home improvement guru Barbara K, the founder of Barbara K Enterprises Inc., a New York City-based company that helps women do it themselves. "Bits of metal or other objects can fly in your face when you least expect it, even with the most basic do-it-yourself projects."

Learn these ladder lessons. "Falling off of ladders is a leading cause of injury and fatalities whether they happen doing a do-it-yourself project, decorating a holiday tree, or trying to change the batteries in your smoke detector," Mickalide says. There are 150,000 ladder-related injuries in the home every year, according to statistics compiled by the Home Safety Council.

"These injuries can be severe and [occur] mostly to legs, arms, and torso," she says.

Though ladders can be dangerous, they are far safer than standing on a piece of furniture, chair, or bureau to get work done, she says. "You want to make sure the ladder is on level ground and the side locks are engaged," she says. "Always face the ladder when you are climbing it."

Remember the four-to-one rule, she says. "For each 4 feet of distance between the ground and the upper point of contact of the ladder, such as the wall or roof, move the base of the ladder out 1 foot," she says. "Also, wear rubber sole shoes when doing work on a ladder to help prevent slipping."

Cover your hands. "You may need heavy-duty rubber gloves depending on the project or even lighter-weight gloves, but either way wear gloves so you can take them off when you are through working and your hands are clean," Mickalide says.

Practice painting prowess. "If the paint is flammable or combustible, make sure you open the doors and windows to create ventilation," Mickalide says. "Eliminate flame sources by turning off pilot lights on the stove," she says. "Don't relight the stove until the room is free of fumes."

Remember to wear a mask when you are painting, sanding, or using solvents because of the potentially toxic fumes, Barbara K adds. When you are painting, "use a drop cloth made out of something other than plastic because it's easy to slip and fall on plastic," she warns. Also, be sure there is good ventilation in the area.

Establish a kid-free zone. "Before you start a project, tell kids and other adults that what you are doing is potentially hazardous and they need to stay away," says Mickalide.

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