Bob Campbell has done his own concrete work for years. So the Akron, Ohio, do-it-yourselfer never thought twice about laying the concrete foundation for his new carport.
Until he got into the shower afterward, and the skin on his knees came off.
Campbell’s skin had come into contact with lime from the cement portion of the concrete. When alkaline compounds get moist from water or sweat, the reaction can eat away at skin and other tissue.
It had never happened to Campbell before, so he didn’t know about the potential danger. And because he didn’t know about the danger, he didn’t read the warning on the bill of sale he got from the company that delivered the concrete.
A month after the accident, Campbell’s wounds have healed with no long-term damage. But he wanted other homeowners to know about the hazard in the hope of sparing someone else.
That’s the thing about do-it-yourselfers: It’s not uncommon for handy types to plunge into projects with more confidence than know-how. And sometimes that can-do cavalierness can have painful consequences.
Accidents from projects around the house send thousands of do-it-yourselfers to emergency rooms each year. For example, in 2010, lawn mowers sent an estimated 89,518 people for treatment in the United States; home workshop power saws, 80,688 people; and workshop manual tools, 131,762 people, according to the most recent figures available from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Not all accidents are preventable, of course. But in many cases, some simple precautions can save us from ourselves.
John Drengenberg of Underwriters Laboratories and Christy Beeghly of the Ohio Department of Health offered some suggestions for reducing DIY injuries.
• Don’t take any project lightly. Even something as simple as changing a light bulb can have potential danger, says Drengenberg, manager of consumer affairs for Underwriters Laboratories. Screw in a bulb that uses more watts than a socket is rated for, and heat can build up over time, he noted. That can damage the socket, the wires in the fixture or even the wiring in the wall, possibly sparking a fire.
His point: Lose the I-can-accomplish-anything arrogance and humble yourself enough to find out what you’re getting into.
• Slow down. We’re busy. We don’t like spending precious time on nagging projects when more appealing options beckon. But rushing can lead to injury, noted Beeghly, the Health Department’s violence and injury prevention program administrator.
Take the time to make sure you’re prepared, she said. Read all the instructions. Assemble the equipment you’ll need. And give yourself time to do the job properly and safely. Often the instruction manuals for tools and equipment will include safety tips, so read them and heed them, Drengenberg urged.
• Wear the right gear. Safety glasses are a must if you’re working with any tool or in any situation that might lead to eye injury. Think that through, Beeghly urged. Bits of material can fly up when you’re drilling, sawing or hammering. Branches can poke your eyes.
Gloves, ear protection, proper footwear and other protective garb or equipment can also be important, depending on the job. Avoid loose clothing, jewelry or long hair that might get caught in equipment.