DIY Dangers – Hazards for the do-it-yourselfer

Accidents occur frequently during do-it-yourself or leisure activities, when attention is concentrated on the job, and sensible precautions often forgotten. Over-reaching to do just that little bit more, finding out it is too much, can cause home accidents.

Painting and decorating

Check that the ladder is in good order, that rungs are not weak or broken, and that metal. Parts have not corroded. Place the ladder at a safe angle and ensure that it is suitably lashed and securely footed. When using a blow-lamp ensure that it does not set light to surrounding combustible materials and is not directed to the person. If lead-based paint is being used this should be stored away from children.

Using electric power tools

Electric power tools provide an inexpensive and efficient service for the do-it-yourself enthusiast. Their safe use has been given important consideration by the designers and provided that certain precautions are observed they can be used with confidence. Use tools of a reputable make, where possible complying with a standard established by the British Standards Institution. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly. Ensure that tools are correctly earthed, and that plugs are correctly fused and in good order, also that the cables used are undamaged. Permanently wired earthed three-pin socket outlets should be used as supply points. They should preferably be undercover but, if exposed, must be designed watertight socket outlets. Periodical inspection and testing of installation and earthing system is recommended.


Make certain that fences are maintained in good repair. Protruding nails should be hammered in and the garden gate should be checked for a safe fastening.

Making paths

When making paths ensure that the surface is level, that gaps between flagstones are filled, and that the surface is free from irregularities. On sloping paths the provision of a hand rail will greatly assist the elderly and infirm.


Heated greenhouses should be adequately ventilated, the heater used in compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions and installation regularly checked. Broken glass should be removed without delay, ensuring that jagged edges are not left in the framework and the glass replaced as quickly as possible. Children should not play around the greenhouse.

Burning garden refuse

Garden refuse should be burned in a correctly built incinerator, carefully watched during burning and extinguished before nightfall. Children are often attracted by fire and watch should be kept that they do not play around the incinerator. Do not use petrol or paraffin on garden fires.

Electrical hazards

  • Most of the cases of electrocution which occur every year are due to sheer carelessness or lack of supervision of children. Electrocution can be caused by broken plugs and sockets, faulty appliances, frayed flex, amateur repairs, broken or missing switches; running power appliances from a lamp holder or two pin plug, and outworn appliances.
  • Other causes are trying to effect repairs without switching off the current, taking appliances into the bathroom; switching on or off with wet hands, standing on a wet floor while ironing, touching water pipes or earthed metals while ironing, allowing children to insert metal objects into sockets, emptying or filling kettles or percolators with the current on, using home made electric blankets, or old blankets that need inspection and repair, Cleaning cookers without turning them off, wrong wiring of plugs.
  • To prevent electrocution have all installations carried out by a qualified electrical contractor. Buy appliances carrying the seal of the British Electrotechnical Approvals Board, and follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
  • Fused plugs—whilst most 13 amp fused plugs are sold complete with 13 amp fuse, this may be too highly rated for some appliances. Check with your Electricity Showrooms, or a contractor on the roll of the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting, if 3 amp is correct.
  • Electric Blankets—these should be rolled or stored flat and regularly serviced during the summer months. Ensure that the manufacturer’s instructions are carefully followed when blankets require cleaning.
  • New colour code —before wiring a plug check that you know the new colour code—Blue to Neutral, Brown to Live. Yellow-green to Earth.

Gas hazards

  • Gas can cause poisoning, explosions and fire, and burns, if incorrectly used.
  • Amateur installations—only Gas Council tested appliances, correctly installed by an approved fitter, should be used. Care should be taken to check pilot lights regularly as they can blow out leaving a leak of unburnt gas. Loose gas taps and wrong or worn connecting tubing can also cause trouble.
  • Ventilation. To prevent accidents heating appliances (boilers, fires and instantaneous water heaters) must have adequate ventilation to ensure that enough fresh air enters the room to keep the gas burning correctly. The appliances must have proper flue systems to remove waste gases to the outside air.
  • Maintenance. All appliances should be inspected regularly by a qualified engineer or fitter. Attention must also be given to flues and ventilators to make sure they do not become blocked or obstructed.

Fire hazards

  • Thousands of fires occur in homes every year, some causing accidental death, burns and suffocation by smoke. Some are the result of structural deficiencies. Human carelessness underlies many others.
  • Sound personal habits can prevent fires. Never pour paraffin on a sulky fire, or draw it up with newspaper, use a metal ash container to carry hot ashes from hearth to ash bin: keep oily and polishing cloths in covered metal containers. Use metal ashcans and dustbins, not wood or cardboard boxes. If cooking fat catches alight turn off the heat, do not remove from cooker, but cover with a heavy damp cloth or mat.
  • Installations of heating systems, alterations and conversions should only be done, for safety, by trained builders, after a local surveyor has passed plans to comply with bylaws and safety requirements.
  • Chimneys and flues should be swept at least twice a year. Smoke issuing from cracks in flues and chimneys calls for expert attention.
  • Flammable liquids such as paint, paraffin, turp;s, dry:cleaners and paint solvents should be stored in appr9ved containers if possible, and never stored under the stairs or near an exit.
  • Open fires need a strong, fixed fireguard for the protection of young children and old people, and a sparkguard used when leaving a coal or wood fire unwatched for even a short time.
  • Gas fires should have sound guards, safety taps and should be connected only by approved tubing.
  • Oil heaters should be filled out of doors (fuel kept away from the house if possible), placed on a base of non-combustible material, well out of draughts, and kept away from curtains, and furniture. Buy only those with the Oil Appliance Manufacturers Association safety tag, and keep manufacturers’ instructions
  • Gas and electric fires should be placed On stands of noncombustible material and switched off immediately after use. Candles and nightlights if used should be placed in a saucer of water.

Leave a Comment