DIY Safety Tips

Being a DIYer isn't especially dangerous, but there are risks when you're using tools and ladders. Every year, emergency rooms report hundreds of thousands of visits for injuries caused by power tools, ladders and hand tools. To ensure you're not one of these statistics, here are six reminders about how to prevent common injuries when you're working on summer projects.


1. Don't use a table saw fence for crosscuts

One of the most dangerous table saw practices is cutting a board to length using the fence as a guide. There's a good chance the board will get pinched between the blade and the fence and get thrown back into your body with lots of force. This "kickback" causes injuries like broken thumbs, cracked ribs, ruptured spleens and punctured eyes.

Don't be a dummy: Don't use the fence as a guide for crosscutting. Instead, use the miter gauge or build a crosscutting sled.


2. Don't put your hand directly behind a circular saw

If your circular saw blade binds, the saw can shoot backward a lot faster than you can move your hand out of the way. Anything in the blade's path, including fingers, hands, legs and feet, is in danger of getting cut. Always clamp your work and keep both hands on the saw whenever possible. Also, keep your body to the side of the saw rather than directly behind it.

Don't be a dummy: Don't hold a board like this. Use a temporary nail or clamp instead.


3. Keep your hands clear of your nail gun

Nails don't always go straight. Wood grain or knots can deflect the nail and cause it to shoot out the side of the board. If you're driving the nail at an angle to toenail a board, there's a good chance the nail can glance off and go shooting into space. If you must hold a board with your free hand, keep it well away from the nail gun muzzle. Also avoid shooting into large knots that can deflect the nail. And, of course, always wear eye protection when you're using a nail gun.

Don't be a dummy: Don't hold a board close to the nail gun tip. Move your hand as far back as possible to avoid getting a nail through your finger.


4. Take utility knives seriously

They may seem tame, but utility knives account for a whopping 60,000 estimated emergency room visits a year. One slip is all it takes to put a deep cut in any body part that's in the way. To avoid injury, clamp materials instead of holding them by hand. If you do have to hold something while you're cutting, imagine a line at right angles to the cutting line and keep your hand behind it (on the dull side of the blade).

Don't be a dummy: If the knife slips, this dummy will end up with a nasty cut or worse. Keep your hands out of the blade's path.


 5. Wear eye protection—really!

Wood chips, metal shards, bits of tile, household chemicals, paint, solvents and sticks are some of the things that injure eyes. Use the right eye protection for the task at hand. For general work around the house, wear ANSI-approved safety glasses or goggles. Look on the frame for the "Z87+" marking, which indicates that the glasses are rated for high impact. Wear a face shield for grinding operations. Buy several pairs of safety glasses so they're always nearby. And wear them!

Don't be a dummy! This dummy has eye protection and isn't using it. The smart guy not only has eye protection on hand—he wears it!


6. Don't leave tools on top of a ladder

Be honest: Have you left stuff on top of ladders or framing? One of our Field Editors told us how his brother had rested a framing nail gun on the top plate of a wall they were building, and while he was working below, the vibrations from his pounding knocked it off onto his head. Tools left on top of ladders, set precariously on framing or left on a roof are accidents waiting to happen.

Never leave anything on ladders. It'll come back to bonk you!