DIY can be immensely rewarding. From building new furniture through to home renovations, you can save a lot of money, and have a great deal more control, over a project if you can DIY.
Of course, you don’t need to go through a course and become a registered professional to undertake a DIY project. But at the same time, whether you are a professional or a hobbyist, you do need to be careful, and take the time to fully understand safety, especially when it comes to electricity.
Hobbyists are even more at risk of electrical injury precisely because a professional goes through incredibly comprehensive safety training before they’re even unleashed on hands-on projects. Many people are injured at home every year as a result of a DIY project, most of them are hobbyists, and those injuries can be severe. It’s particularly important to pay attention to electrical safety.
Before you even start
Before you even start a DIY project, make sure that you’re well aware of electrical safety basics:
- Learn your home’s electrical system; make sure you know where all the wires are, and where the potential dangers might be. Don’t even think about cutting into something unless you’ve checked to ensure there aren’t powered wires behind it – add a good cable detector to your toolset as a matter of priority.
- If you’re working directly with something electrical, make sure it’s fully unplugged first. If you’re working with a lamp, for example, make sure you’ve removed it from the wall socket. If something has batteries, either as a primary or secondary power source, be sure to remove those too.
- Understand your own skill level. If a project is too difficult, in part or in whole, call in professional assistance. Never do DIY electrical work unless you’re a properly qualified electrician, because the risk there is just too great.
- Don’t work in the wet; water obviously adds to the risk of electrical injury, so if it’s raining, don’t work on a project outdoors. Avoid drilling holes in your water pipes for the same reason (and because you probably don’t want your house flooded anyway).
- Take safety precautions in what you wear and use. Rubber soled shoes are a must, and make sure that your tools – pliers, screwdrivers, and so on – are in good condition and have non-conductive grips. If you’re using a ladder or step ladder, you’re better off going with fibreglass or other non-conductive materials.
What you need to know about power tools
Power tools are essential for many projects, but you need to know how to operate them safely. There are a couple of things that you can do to ensure that you can continue to use power tools without putting yourself, your family, or your property at risk:
- Invest in safety switches on all power circuits. These will help protect you from electric shocks.
- Never use power tools near water pipes or electrical wires. If you’re working on a specific part of the house, shut off power to that part of the house first.
- Only use power tools with safety devices installed, and if the power tool trips that safety device, don’t ignore it. Take the tool to a manufacturer-authorised repair centre for service first.
- Only ever use power tools with appropriate safety wear; goggles, hearing protection, dust masks, gloves and so on are essential, and invest in good ones – your health is too important to risk a cheap piece of safety wear failing you at the last moment.
- Don’t use extension cords that are too long (more than 30 metres). If you’re working far from a power source, use tools that are battery operated, or consider hiring a generator.
- Keep the tools in good condition. If for any reason the guards on the tools have started to degrade, replace them – or the tool itself.
It’s also important that family members, flatmates, or anyone else who’s around when you’re working on a DIY project knows what you’re doing, and knows to keep a safe distance, particularly if you’re working with power tools.
Turning the power back on
Finally, once your project has finished, it’s time to turn the power back on. Pay close attention to the tripping breaker on your property; if it trips immediately, that means there’s an issue with your power supply – and it’s possible the new DIY project is the thing causing it. Don’t ignore it! Immediately seek the advice of a qualified electrician on what might be going wrong.
Because of the severity of damage that can be done from an electrical fault or accident, it’s absolutely critical to minimise risks as far as possible when doing DIY projects that bring you into contact with electricity.