The nature of construction means there’s constantly the potential for disaster. Heavy objects, sharp ends, powerful machines and more don’t mix well with soft human bodies.
Even when I work with experienced teams or am just doing a little job around the house on my own, I still occasionally come across dangerous situations and close calls. These instances are even more common in the world of amateur construction, where people without professional training often find themselves at odds with the tools and materials they’re working with.
There are plenty of reasons to consider amateur construction. It can save you money, especially on smaller-scale work. It gives people a sense of accomplishment and ownership, and lets them express their creative side exactly as they envision with their own hands. But such projects cause disasters every day. Mishaps can cause expensive damage to structures and severe injury to the builder. If you’re considering a DIY construction project, be sure to use extra caution and be on the lookout for these common mistakes:
1. Dehydration and Overexertion
Often it’s not a wild swing of a hammer or improper use of a table saw that causes mistakes, but physical fatigue and breakdown. Unless you’re a very active person on a regular basis, your body may not be prepared for the rigor of heavy construction work. Exhaustion and dehydration make people clumsy and cause them to make bad decisions. Only work when you’re rested and hydrated, and be sure to make time in your efforts for breaks and refreshment.
A poorly organized work space is the bane of construction workers everywhere. It decreases efficiency and makes the entire job take longer to complete. More importantly, though, it creates hazards. It’s difficult to be safe and effective if you’re navigating through a mess of lumber and machinery. Always make a point to keep your work place as neat as possible; the investment of time will pay itself off.
3. Working Alone
Doing anything strenuous on your own is rarely a good idea. If something happens, like a sudden injury, it can be tough to take care of yourself. Avoid doing heavy construction work without someone who knows where you are and what you’re doing in case an emergency arises.
4. Improper Safety Gear
It’s amazing how many do-it-yourselfers try to tackle a project without even the most basic of safety equipment. You don’t need a HAZMAT suit to stay protected in most situations. Even just investing in some good work gloves and decent safety glasses will prevent an astonishing amount of injuries.
When many people undertake large construction projects, they often overlook the difficulty and danger of working with and around established electrical systems. Improperly fiddling with the wiring in your walls and appliances can cause a deadly shock. Always be sure you know how to correctly handle electrical installation or removal before starting any projects that will require it.
6. Hazardous Materials
Some construction work might involve the use of hazardous chemicals that people aren’t used to handling. This could include something as simple as gasoline, or something a little more complex like an industrial cleaner. Always be wary of any dangers related to flammability, toxic fumes, and chemical reactions due to exposure.
7. Unwelcome Visitors
Even in a relatively safe work site, it’s easy for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing to hurt themselves or someone else. I see this commonly in homes with children and pets where boundaries aren’t properly established. Be sure to make clear to any kids present that the construction area is dangerous, and take care to zone the area off from a curious dog or cat.
8. Excess Stress on the Body
A lot of construction work is physically taxing. There’s a high amount of pressure put on sensitive body parts repeatedly. Your shoulders, wrists, knees, and back are especially at risk. To reduce the danger, follow best practices for lifting and moving heavy objects and using tools.
9. Working from a Height
Some of the nastiest construction-related injuries I’ve witnessed were due to someone getting careless and falling from a roof or ladder. Always take extra caution when working from a position where a fall could happen, even if you’re just a few feet off the ground. Learn ladder and harness safety as necessary to prevent a fall.
10. Incomplete Tool Knowledge
As tempting as it may be to skip, you should always read the manual for any tool more complex than a hammer or screwdriver. Always know the ins and outs of all your power tools, from power drills to nail guns, so you’re never taken by surprise.
Doing a personal construction project is rewarding both personally and financially, but only if you avoid causing any damage to yourself or the area around you. Always be sure to follow all general safety precautions before getting started. Happy building!