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DIY safety: beware of dangers to yourself and to others

Man climbing a ladder
When completing do-it-yourself projects around the home, remember that safety comes first for yourself and for others.

Many injuries and deaths happen during home maintenance and DIY activities when people have used the wrong tool for the job, or have not taken the proper care when using tools around the home. Additionally, not following instructions, or failing to heed warning labels, can have tragic results.

Top DIY safety tips

  1. Vehicle jacks are generally for changing tyres only – never get under a car that is only supported by a jack.
  2. When working under your car use a trolley jack to lift the car before lowering it onto vehicle support stands. Use vehicle support stands on a hard surface before working under your car.
  3. When using a ladder always work within arm’s reach and only climb to the second rung from the top of a step ladder or the third rung from the top of an extension ladder.
  4. When using elastic luggage straps to transport materials for DIY projects, avoid stretching them too far as they may cause serious eye and facial injuries if they rebound.
  5. Only install basketball rings on walls that are structurally sound and ensure rings are securely attached.

Working under cars

People can be crushed to death or severely injured when working under a car that is only supported by a jack.

Over the past decade, at least 46 Australians have been crushed and killed when working under a vehicle.

On average, 160 injuries are associated with jacks each year. Injuries range from amputation to fractures and crush injuries.

Most of the deaths were men and involved the vehicle being lifted or supported in the wrong way. Home mechanics are most at risk of this type of death or injury.

More safety tips
  • Never get under a car that is being supported by a jack.
  • Never place any part of your body under a vehicle unless it is sitting securely on support stands or ramps.
  • Never allow a person or pet to remain in the vehicle whilst it is being jacked.
  • Never exceed the weight capacity of the jack.
Video: Using car jacks

Working with ladders

Ladders can be found in most home garages and sheds. A fall from a ladder can cause fractured limbs, spinal cord damage, severe brain injury and death.

You only have to fall from 1-2 metres off a ladder to suffer serious injuries or death. On average, more than 4 Australians, mostly men, die each year after falling from a ladder.

Most men injured or killed after falling from a ladder were at or nearing retirement age and were doing maintenance around the home.

In Australians aged 65 or older, 1,668 people were hospitalised as a result of a fall on or from a ladder during 2011-12. 78 per cent of these were men, with 62 per cent of total injuries happening in or around the home.

More safety tips
  • Work within arm’s reach from the ladder — if you cannot easily reach, climb down and reposition the ladder.
  • Always hold the ladder with one hand.
  • Be careful when pulling items from shelves/gutters/roofs as this may cause you to lose your balance.
  • When you are finished store the ladder in a dry place to prevent warping or corrosion.

Installing basketball rings and backboards

The practice of slam dunking places the full weight of the basketball player onto the ring. Serious injuries can occur where walls or posts cannot cope with the stress of slam dunks. These structures can collapse, exposing the player to falling bricks, posts, ring or backboard.

From 1996 to 2005 there have been four serious injuries or deaths after structures collapsed on a basketball player following a slam dunk.

More safety tips

If you are installing a basketball ring and backboard, arrange for a building professional to regularly check that:

  • brick walls, or other building walls to which basketball rings are attached are sound
  • basketball rings are securely attached to the wall or post.

Using elastic luggage straps

The most commonly reported injuries from elastic luggage straps occur to the eyes. These injuries can happen in situations where the strap is stretched beyond its capacity causing it to unhook and spring back at the user at high speed.

There were at least 140 cases of elastic strap related injuries presented at Victorian emergency departments from January 2000 to June 2009.

On average, 16 reported injuries per annum in Victoria occur as a result of elastic luggage straps.

More safety tips
  • Avoid stretching elastic luggage straps too far as they can rebound and cause serious eye, facial and chest injuries.
  • Only purchase and use elastic luggage straps that carry the correct, permanent label, as the label is a constant reminder to anyone using the strap that serious injuries can result from misuse.
  • Consider using an alternative to elastic luggage straps such as rope or tie down straps.

Alerts

DON'T BE A JACKASS WITH JACKS. People have been crushed to death or severely injured when they have not used jacks, support stands or ramps properly. The ACCC is leading a joint campaign with state and territory fair trading agencies to raise awareness about your safety when doing DIY mechanic work. Follow the safety tips and read the information to stay safe when working under your car.

Videos

Check out the Don't be a jackass - an anti-manual for using a car jack video as part of the national DIY campaign.

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