• Use ladders wisely. Ladder accidents account for more than 200,000 emergency room trips a year, Drengenberg said. Long extension ladders aren’t the only culprits. Stepladders and step stools can be dangerous, too, he said.
The basic rule he cites is “one step at a time, two hands at a time.” Wear a tool belt so you can always keep two hands on the ladder, or have someone hand up tools to you, he suggested.
Use the right ladder for the job, and set it on a flat surface, Drengenberg said. Don’t overextend your reach, no matter how much trouble it is to get down and move the ladder instead.
And never stand on the top rung. “That’s for trapeze artists, not for do-it-yourselfers,” he said.
• Practice power tool safety. Tools such as power saws and hedge trimmers have a place for both your hands. That’s intentional, Drengenberg said. It gives you more control of the tool and discourages you from using one hand to hold the item you’re cutting. Use a clamp instead, he said.
Another feature that exists for a reason is the safety guard. Don’t remove it, Drengenberg said, unless you absolutely have to for making a special cut. If you do remove it, replace it immediately.
Keep tools in good working order, and be sure to use the right blade or tool for the task, he said. It’s funny when someone posts a picture online of some doofus trying to prune his tree with a circular saw. It’s not so funny when that doofus cuts off a couple of fingers.
• Keep your work space clean. This isn’t a Felix Unger thing. Picking up debris, cleaning up spills, unplugging and putting away tools and equipment, and otherwise keeping your work space reasonably orderly means less chance of slipping or tripping, Beeghly said.
Those precautions also help safeguard children and pets, she noted. Of course they should be kept out of the area when you’re working, but it’s just as important to make the work zone safe for them when you’re not.
• Use the right extension cords. Extension cords are made differently for different jobs. Some carry less power than others; some have jackets that can stand up to moisture or hard use; some have particular types of prongs. Talk to a knowledgeable salesperson at your hardware store or home center who can help you choose one that fits your needs, Drengenberg suggested.
If you’re working outdoors, use only a cord rated for outdoor use. Use one that’s long enough so you don’t have to plug two or more extension cords together. The connections can get exposed to moisture from rain, snow or dew, possibly causing electrical leakage, Drengenberg said.
Never try to repair an extension cord with electrical tape, he said. Replace a nicked cord instead.
• Have a first aid kit on hand. Accidents happen, even when we take the proper precautions. Make sure those precautions include having a properly stocked first aid kit, Beeghly said.
• Know your limits. Pay attention to that little voice that says you might be in over your head, Beeghly said. Stop if you’re not comfortable with a tool or a procedure, especially when you’re working with electricity or tools that are difficult to control. That’s a good indication it’s time to call in a professional, she said.