Home, Safe, Home
By Vicki Sanderson
June 16, 2011
There’s a long-standing story — possibly apocryphal — that circulates among our family about a certain Aunt Edna who, being safety minded, tethered herself with a long rope to the door handle of a car in the driveway before climbing on to the roof to fix an antenna. Shortly after, another family member got in the car and drove off on an errand.
The ending of this yarn is funny, rather than tragic. But it points to one of the most under-reported issues in the areaof home renovation and maintenance — how to keep ourselves safe while doing chores and reno work. It’s a message the Canadian Safety Association, a not-for-profit organization that tests and certifies all manner of consumer goods, wants to hammer home (www.csa.ca).
To get off to a safe start, they suggest homeowners always use CSA-approved products and be wary of items with unrecognizable brands names, missing instructions, prices that are “too good to be true” or that contain CSA logos that look even a little bit off. They may be counterfeit.
When it comes to tips, some of the CSA suggestions are so clearly no-brainers that it’s shocking that they even need repeating. Should anyone really need to be told never to clear an obstruction on a running mower? Just keep in mind that doing so can cause injuries or amputation, the result of 16 per cent of accidents involving lawn mowers, according to the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program, which analyzes injuries to people (mainly children) at the emergency rooms of 14 Canadian hospitals.
Look for more information on counterfeit products, and get more general safety tips from www.csasafetytips.com.
In olden times, this article would have been directed more or less exclusively to men. That was before women began not only doing more DIY around the home, but entering the construction trade in numbers. As they did, they often found that safety apparel was not designed with them in mind.
“When it came to footwear, they used to just take a men’s work boot and add extra padding,” says Marissa McTasney, founder of Moxie Trades, which makes safety gear for women. “But men’s and women’s feet have a different shape, so you actually need a different last (form).”
McTasney, who initially built her reputation on a stylish pink work boot for women, has recently expanded her footwear offering to include athletic runners, slip-ons, oxfords and light-duty work boots. More styles will arrive in the fall. I recently tried wearing the lightweight (and surprisingly attractive) Vegas from Moxie ($140) for a full day of reno work. Lo and behold — after seven hours — my feet did not feel like ground beef, or my legs like logs. For more information about the line, go to www.moxietrades.com. For more about McTasney, go to my blog at www.thestar.blogs.com/onthehouse.
It’s not just about comfort, says McTasney. “The wrong gear can get you hurt. I’ve heard, for example, of gloves being too big for a woman and getting snagged in equipment. And if you’re working all day in things that don’t fit properly, there can be repetitive strain problems.”
One of McTasney’s unbreakable rules is to wear safety glasses while working — either on a job site or around the home. She sells CSA-approved safety glasses made with lightweight polycarbonate lens that filter out 99.9 per cent of ultraviolet radiation. They come with three different types of lens; vermillion, which blocks glare, clear for indoor work, and a mirrored finish that works indoors or out. The first two sell for $20, the latter for $10.
3M also has Tekk Protection safety glasses that have both anti-fog and anti-scratch coating and can be adjusted to fit. A pair sells for about $10 at Lowes www.lowes.ca. It’s a good idea to pick up a few pairs and stash them close to where you may need them — in the tool box, in a closet leading to an attic and in the tool shed. Use mate less-socks as covers to prevent scratches.
McTasney also stresses the importance of keeping the work environment clear, whether it’s the tool room or the backyard. CSA agrees, reminding people that before doing outdoor yard work, the area should be swept for objects that could be tossed by the rotating blades of a mower or string from a trimmer.
It’s never a good idea to breathe in large amounts of dust or particulates, including those produced when sanding drywall and prepping walls for paint. What stops many DIYers from donning a mask is that they can be hot and itchy. That’s less of a problem with 3M’s 8511 particle respirator (about $7 at Lowe’s and Home Hardware www.homehardware.ca), which has a small exhalation valve that keeps the user more comfortable when grinding, sanding, sweeping, or bagging dust. Remember, though, that it’s crucial to pick the right mask for the job. For more info, go to www.3m.ca.