The dangers of DIY

ERIN BOYLE
Last updated 05:00 22/08/2014
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IT'S EASY TO SLIP UP: Falling off ladders and scaffolding are two of the most common DIY accidents.

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It's in our DNA to do DIY. And it can be very rewarding when we fix something around the house all by ourselves with only a quick trip to the hardware store required on Saturday morning.

But before embarking on any home improvements or fixer-uppers, we need to be mindful of our limitations, the risks involved and what we are actually capable of.

In 2013, ACC received 38,123 new claims for injuries that were classified as being the result of DIY, but it seems to be something we are ashamed of.

Glenn Donovan, a senior media adviser for ACC, said it was rare for people to use the term DIY when describing an accident on a claim form.

"Therefore, to identify DIY claims, we look for combinations of words/terms used in the accident description which include tools (such as a saw, hammer, chisel), materials (such as cement, wood, bench, toolbox), and activities (such as fixing, sawing, painting, welding) that together indicate DIY activity was taking place at the time of the accident," Donovan said.

So there you go, men. Despite thinking you have been very crafty and avoided the title of "DIY disaster", ACC is on to you.

But why just single out guys - surely we Kiwi girls are getting in among the home maintenance as well?

Yes, we are, but we don't seem to do as much damage to ourselves in terms of injuries and accidents. 85 per cent of ACC DIY claims are made by men - and 40 to 49 year olds - we're looking at you.

"This age group makes the most claims, 20 per cent of DIY claims made by males and 17 per cent of claims overall," Donovan said.

"Among females, those aged 45 to 54 make the most claims, which is around a quarter of all DIY claims made by females."

ACC says the most common causes of DIY injuries include lifting, carrying and straining, a loss of balance or slipping, and objects coming loose and striking someone.

And, it seems, the humble hammer might have to take the award for most dangerous tool, with 17 per cent of DIY claims made due to damage to fingers and/or thumbs.

Our poor eyes are second in the firing line, accounting for about 14 per cent of claims and our backs come in third, representing 13 per cent of DIY claims.

So why does DIY present such a danger to the everyday Kiwi?

Donovan has a few ideas. From not using the right equipment, to pushing it beyond its proper uses, we may also be trying to fit DIY work in around paid work and family commitments, and could be working for long stretches without a break or work when fatigued.

"And, because we're working at home, there are no 'official' health and safety rules in place, as there would be on, say, a professional building site - so in this more relaxed environment, people let their guard down, or do things that aren't so wise because there's no-one around to pull us up."

In all seriousness though, DIY comes at both a personal and national cost. Individuals may be unable to do things they would normally do, such as go to work or do family duties while recovering.

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In addition, there's the financial price; the roughly 38,000 DIY claims last year cost the country and levy payers about $87 million. But as a nation of DIYers, we aren't going to stop anytime soon. So what can be done to ensure we don't slip up when working on our homes and properties?

Donovan said to make sure you wore safety gear, such as gloves, boots and eye and ear protections.

Keep tools in good condition and make sure you used the right ones for the job. And know your limits. When necessary, get a professional to do the job.

"I'd also suggest some small things too, like keeping your workspace tidy and free of clutter, being aware of dust, fumes and gases, keeping emergency equipment handy and ensure dangerous tools and items are used and kept away from the reach of young children," Donovan said.

"It's also worth noting that alcohol is likely to be a factor in a number of home injuries. We estimate that alcohol contributes to around 11 per cent of injuries overall and, obviously, it's not a good idea to carry out DIY work, and use tools or ladders, if you've been drinking."

For further information about the type of work you can do without the need for a licensed practitioner, visit business.govt.nz or Consumer Build.

- Stuff

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