Painting Your Home? Safety Tips for the DIY Crowd.

House painting is one of the most popular DIY projects and for good reason. A quick splash of color is an easy way to give your entire home a facelift. But when painting indoors, steps should be taken to keep you and your family safe. Harmful fumes and dangerous chemicals are known to be in many paints, and can put both humans and animals at risk for illness and injury if proper precautions aren’t taken.

Follow these steps for a fun and safe DIY experience:

Choose Healthier Products

If possible, always choose low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and primers for your DIY pursuits. These products have less harmful fumes than traditional latex paints, and they’re similar in cost to most premium brands.

Test for Lead

If you live in a home built before 1978, there’s a fair chance you have lead-based paint in the house. Buy a test kit at the local hardware store and test a sample before you start sanding. If you find that you have lead paint on your walls, consult with a professional – it can be dangerous to remove it on your own.

Prepare Your Workspace

A well-thought-out workspace can make the difference between a great experience and a terrible one.

  • Keep your work area well ventilated. Fumes can be harmful to inhale, so open the windows and use an exhaust fan.
  • Never use paint, solvents, or strippers near an open flame or other heat sources. Certain chemicals can be highly flammable, so don’t smoke cigarettes, and avoid placing your materials near a working oven or water heater.
  • Use the proper safety equipment – when painting or sanding, use a respirator to stop from inhaling harmful fumes or dust particles.
  • Use a cloth drop cloth rather than plastic – plastic slips more easily and can lead to falls.
  • Cover electrical outlets with painter’s tape, or turn off the power if you need to remove an outlet or switch covers.

Practice Ladder Safety

If your project requires you to climb a ladder, use the following tips to stay safe:

  • Make sure your ladder is in good shape. You should inspect it before every use, no matter how long since you used it last.
  • Don’t try to carry anything up with you. Have someone else hand you your paints and rollers once you’re up on the ladder.
  • Never stand on the top step. If your knees are above the top, you’re too high.
  • Don’t overreach. It may require a little more effort, but get down and move the ladder if you find yourself leaning too far.

Clean up and dispose of paint properly

  • When cleaning up, check your work area for spills, dust, or other debris that could be a falling hazard.
  • Let latex paint dry out completely before disposing of it – one easy trick to speed up the process is to mix a handful of sand or dirt into the can, then let it sit for a week or so with the lid off.
  • While drying your paint, keep the cans in a safe, secure place, away from children and animals.
  • Clean brushes and rollers with a non-toxic solvent. There are plenty of citrus-based or otherwise natural products on the market.
  • If possible, don’t sleep in a freshly painted room for two days. It will help keep you away from harmful odors. 

Painting is a fun project – keep it fun by eliminating any chance of accidents or injury! A little effort before setting out can make all the difference.

The Many Ways We Use Ladders Incorrectly

Despite being one of the most commonly used tools both at home and on the job, ladders will often be used improperly.  Unfortunately, this often leads to injury or even death. According to the American Journal of Preventable Medicine, over 136,000 people head to the hospital every year for ladder-related emergencies – and 10% of those people need to be admitted for extended and costly stays.

Imagine how those numbers would change if everyone just practiced a little common sense when it comes to ladder safety. Next time you’re getting ready to use a ladder, read the manufacturer’s guidelines first – even people who use ladders regularly can use a refresher on occasion.

Here are some handy tips to always keep in mind:

Safety Starts With Your Ladder

Before you do anything else, your ladder needs to be in good working order. Even if you handle it frequently, you should perform a basic inspection before each use. Regrettably, this is something many people often overlook.

Items to look for include:

  • Cracked or broken steps or rungs
  • Loose or missing hinges or hinges that do not lock
  • Rot or decay in wooden ladders
  • Missing or damaged non-slip feet
  • Dirt and debris, including mud, grease, or other slippery substances
  • Wobble (ladders should always stand firm without moving side-to-side)

Always Set Up Your Ladder Properly

A ladder needs to be set up properly to be safe to use. Improper set up is a leading cause of accidental falls and means that many people are not following even the most basic guidelines. In most cases, injury can be easily avoided by following these simple rules:

For stepladders:

  • Make sure rail spreaders are open and locked
  • Place the non-skid ladder feet on level ground
  • If you are working near a door, lock it or otherwise brace it so it can’t be opened
  • Don’t place tools or other obstacles on the ladder

For extension ladders:

  • Keep the ladder feet level (use ladder levelers if necessary)
  • Place the non-skid ladder feet on solid ground – no gravel or other loose debris
  • Make sure the ladder isn’t too close to the edge of the building
  • Extend the ladder at least three feet above whatever surface you’re working on
  • Don’t rest an extension ladder against a tree, pole, or other surfaces where it could rotate
  • Always use the correct angle. As a good rule of thumb, there should be a 75-degree angle between the ladder’s resting point and the base of the wall.

Practice Safe Use

For those who use a ladder frequently, it seems like nothing bad could ever happen. However, being lax and careless is what leads to accidents. Proper usage takes little time or effort and can save a costly trip to the emergency room. Some good general rules are:

  • Always maintain 3 points of contact – either two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot
  • Never overreach or overextend
  • Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on weight limit – every ladder is designed to hold only a specified amount of weight including you AND your equipment
  • Never stand on the top step or rung of the ladder
  • Do not try to move or shift the ladder while you’re standing on it
  • Avoid electrical hazards – always look for nearby wires before climbing

If you can remember just one rule about ladders, let it be this: never take shortcuts! No matter how much time it will save you, or how quickly you need to get the job done, cutting corners is never the answer. A few extra minutes on the job is certainly better than a few months of bedrest!

Do You Have A Prevention and Safety Plan for Your Home?

Most people feel a sense of security and comfort in their home, and many don’t believe anything bad could happen to them while there. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth, as more accidents happen at home than anywhere else. In fact, more than 18,000 Americans die each year due to accidents at home and there are over 21 million patient trips to doctors, clinics and hospitals for treatments due to injuries incurred while at home.

Does that number surprise you? You may wonder how so many accidents happen at home. The simple answer is – lack of care. Some of the most common causes of home-based accidents are due to inattention and neglect. Below is a list of the most frequent causes of injuries at home, and ideas for preventing them:

Falls

  • Banisters and railings – all stairways, indoors and out, should have banisters and railings to help prevent falls. Most states have laws specifying exactly how long the railing needs to be and where it should be installed – make sure to check your local requirements.
  • Ladder usage – failure to take proper ladder safety measures results in countless injuries every year. Always make sure to check your ladder for damage before use, set it up properly, and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on weight limit.
  • Clutter and debris – a messy playroom floor or shoes left on the stairs can lead to grave injury. Keep your house and yard free of clutter to avoid accidental trips and falls.

 

Poisoning

  • Household cleaners and chemicals – items such as bathroom cleaner, bleach, paint, and auto coolant can quickly and easily be opened and ingested by curious children. Remove temptation by keeping them locked up in a secure place.
  • Improperly stored medicine – as with chemicals and cleaners, keep all medicines away from curious hands by storing them in an appropriate location (such as a medicine safe, or in a locked cabinet).

Drowning

Swimming pools, kiddie pools, and even bathtubs can be the cause of serious accidents in the home, especially if you have children. Keep pools secure by installing appropriate fencing and gates, empty kiddie pools when not in use, and never allow children to play unattended in the bathtub.

Fires and burns

  • Hot water heater – whether accidental or on purpose, many people set their hot water heater far too high, often resulting in unintentional burns. To avoid scalding, set your heater at or below 120°F.
  • Stove and oven – to help avoid accidents involving a hot stove or oven, try to use the back burners whenever possible, and turn all pot and pan handles so they’re facing in.
  • Fireplace – a fireplace can be the cause of a devastating house fire. To avoid such accidents, keep anything that can burn at least three feet from the fireplace, and make sure to clean the chimney and flue regularly.

One of the best things you can do to help prevent accidents and injuries in the home is to come up with a safety plan. Include items such as those listed above and discuss your safety plan with everyone in the household. Adults and children alike should be aware of proposed safety measures and actively work to implement them. The best prevention is to review your safety plan frequently and adjust it as necessary.

10 Ways to Prevent Falls at Home

Older adults aren’t the only ones who need to worry about falls at home. Many households could benefit from a fall-prevention assessment. While the elderly are at increased risk, people of all ages end up in the hospital every single year due to preventable falls. Such injuries can lead to limited mobility, reduced activity, lost work time, inability to participate in recreational activities, and even loss of life.

Here are 10 ways you can help keep your own home safe:

  • Remove clutter. From playrooms with toys strewn all over the floor, to home offices with stacks of paper everywhere, your house might just be one giant fall risk. Keep the messes at a minimum to reduces trips and falls.
  • Arrange furniture appropriately. Always make sure there is plenty of space between furniture to move around freely, without bumping into anything. In addition, make sure any area rugs are properly secured, to avoid slipping when you step on them, or tripping over a raised edge.
  • Invest in a bathroom rug. The bathroom floor can get slick with condensation after a hot shower, or can quickly turn into a pond with kids splashing around in the tub. A cheap rug is an easy way to give yourself somewhere to stand when the floor is unsafe.
  • Keep your shower safe. While we’re on the subject of your bathroom – showers and bathtubs are a huge fall risk. Go out and pick up some of those little non-slip appliques or a non-slip mat to help prevent any accidents while you’re soaping up.
  • Clean up spills immediately. From a knocked-over dog water bowl to a spilled cup of juice, any puddle on the floor is a danger. Make sure any liquid messes get cleaned up asap.
  • Keep wires and cords out of the way. In today’s homes, electronics are all over the place. Between multiple televisions, computers, video game consoles, and cell phone chargers, there are more wires laying around than ever before. Keep those wires clear of walkways, and, if possible, invest in a device such as this to help keep them contained.
  • Install railings in all stairways. If you live in a multi-level house, it is essential to have proper handrails installed in all stairways. In fact, in most states, your home won’t even pass inspection without the proper railings.
  • Practice proper ladder safety. Ladders are one of the leading causes of fall-related injuries in the home, year-after-year. Keep yourself safe by always choosing the correct ladder for the job and always following the manufacturer’s safety guidelines.
  • If you have small children, use baby gates where necessary. As anyone with children knows, babies and toddlers love climbing things they shouldn’t. Baby gates should be installed both at the foot of and the top of stairwells, as well as anywhere there is a fall risk. For instance, if your kitchen is recessed, and you have to step down to go into the room, you should probably put a gate in the doorway.
  • Keep walkways neat. It’s easy to ignore the messes outside your house, but they’re a litigation waiting to happen! You want to keep your own family safe, of course, but keep in mind – if a stranger trips over those gardening tools you left on the sidewalk, they could sue you for any injury-related medical bills.

If you follow these simple tips and stay mindful of your surroundings, you should easily avoid most trips and falls within the home.