Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

Don’t be a tool
Home repairs shouldn’t land you in the hospital
By MAG RUFFMAN, Special to QMI Agency

Tens of thousands of do-it-yourselfers spend time in emergency rooms every year. Odds are good that you know one. Present company included.

In fact, if statistics serve, you probably know at least two people who’ve sustained injuries from power tools – the leading cause of mishaps for home renovators.

Accident victims say they were “distracted” when the accident occurred. They say, “I knew better. I just wasn’t thinking.”

So mindfulness is clearly a key.

Tool of hard knocks

Tool know-how is another key. Power tools are a factor in 29.6% of home renovation injuries (Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program, 2003).

But tools without motors or engines send homeowners to the ER, as well. Nearly 20% of DIY injuries involve small hand tools like utility knives, hammers and screwdrivers.

And what is the one component that is present in 100% of reported accidents? A human who failed to wear a bit of gear that would have prevented or reduced the severity of the injury.

(TIP: The most recently available figures cite “a preponderance of males” associated with DIY injuries. Out of 615 cases in one study, 89.1% were of the male persuasion. But those are 2003 figures; since then, a lot of women have joined the DIY game and learned the hard way how to play safe.)

Face it

When you consider that a large number of home improvement injuries (22%) are to the region of head, face and neck, you have to wonder what people were thinking at the time. Your face is kind of important as your main, er, interface with the world.

And guess what part of the face gets hurt most often? If you guessed eyes, you’re very perceptive.

How many eye injuries were preventable with a bit of simple safety gear? Somewhere in the area of 100%.

None of these accident figures accounts for chronic exposure injuries, like loss of hearing. Many people, like my dad, never use ear protection when they cut the lawn, use the table saw or run a compressor. If you want to spend the last 20 or 30 years of your life saying “Could you repeat that?” hearing protection isn’t for you.

Brain of your existence

And a gentle reminder about the delicate nature of brain tissue. I’ve known guys who worked for years painting houses. Never wore respirators. Never thought they needed them. Now, in their upper years, they have glazed looks in their eyes and they don’t respond quickly to, well, anything.

Inhaling volatile organic compounds from paints, adhesives, solvents or sealants doesn’t just give you a mild headache. Those vapours also cause memory loss, confusion, seizures and a general decrease in mental faculties. Your kidneys and liver, which process toxins, don’t like VOCs either.

People are counting on you to live long and prosper. If you protect the entry points (eyes, nose, ears) from damaging vapours, noise and projectiles, life will be better for you and the people you love.

Get geared up

You can equip yourself with a fantastic safety kit for about $100. Here’s what I use; I’m picky, and this is the best I’ve found.

Eyes: Lightweight, anti-fog, anti-scratch safety glasses with side protectors. They should be CSA and ANSI rated.

Ears: Remember those hot-looking ear protectors Scully used in The X-Files when she was doing target practice? They used to be available only at specialty places like Lee Valley Tools, but now you can get them in hardware stores under the brand AO Safety. The newest model is called WorkTunes and has AM/FM radio on board, plus an input for your MP3 player (and great bass response).

Brain/Kidneys/Liver: If I have to, I’ll drive all the way across town to pick up a 3M respirator. They have the best fit, and you cannot smell any fume of any kind when you’re wearing one. They include a particulate filter and a vapour filter, so you’re always protected. The 3M respirator also has a valve that makes breathing easier and never fogs your glasses.

Lungs: I order 10-packs of masks from a great Canadian industrial supply company called U-Line. They deliver next day. The best dust masks have two elastic straps, a breathing valve and thick padding that stops even the finest particulate. They need to fit well so there are no gaps around your nose and cheeks. Order by size for the best fit.

ToolGirl Mag Ruffman blogs about tools and projects.

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