Now that spring is on its way, it’s time to get going on that long list of projects that has been building during the wet, cold months.

Reviewing some basic safety points is part of shaking off the cobwebs. Occasionally, we’ve had to learn this the hard way. There were a couple of doozies early in our careers and, frankly, we consider ourselves lucky that we’re still here to tell about them.

Years ago, Bill was using a pneumatic nail gun to install a soffit in a rental house in Boise, Idaho. With just one more nail to go, he decided to lean and stretch rather than climb down and reposition the ladder. His hand slipped, the gun fired a 16d nail between his thumb and index finger, and we got to make a trip to the emergency room.

As for Kevin, he was using a reciprocating saw (the one that looks like a swordfish) to cut a cripple stud away from a mudsill when we were replacing a foundation. While he was foolishly pulling the saw toward him, it kicked back and plunged into his leg. There wasn’t much blood, but it did make mincemeat of about an inch of his quadriceps muscle.

Underwriters Laboratories, the product testing group that’s been around for 115 years, recently sent out an email with a list of safety precautions. Today, we would like to pass along some of these tips and add a few of our own.

Suit up properly

If spraying paint or herbicides, cover up from head to toe. Same goes when installing insulation. Wear shoes and socks, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, appropriate gloves, head covering, safety glasses or goggles, and an appropriate respirator. When painting indoors, open all doors and windows and use fans when practical.

If the job is noisy, wear earplugs.

Invest in a good pair of safety glasses and use them.

Beware of heights. Use the 4-to-1 rule for ladder placement. For every 4 feet of ladder height, the bottom of the ladder should be 1 foot away from the wall or object it is leaning against. This works out to about a 75 percent incline. Pay special attention to the ladder weight and height limits. As a general rule, the third step from the top is the limit of safety. Always use a ladder that is long enough for the job. Overreaching or balancing on the top rung is an invitation for disaster.

Inspect the ladder before you use it. A cracked wooden ladder or bent metal one is an accident waiting to happen.

10 rules for power tools

1. Inspect your tools before use. Inspect especially for frayed power cords and cracked or broken casings. If the tool is damaged, have it repaired by a qualified technician or toss it.

2. Follow instructions, not intuition. Maintain and use power tools in accordance with the manufacturer’s warnings, precautions and instructions.

3. Check the switch on power tools and garden appliances to make sure it’s in the off position before you plug it in.

4. Keep your tools in shape. Don’t carry tools by the cord and never yank the cord when removing it from an outlet. When disconnecting the cord, always grasp the plug, not the wire. Keep the cord away from heat, oil and sharp edges.

5. When necessary, use clamps or a vise to hold work in place. This frees both hands to operate the tool.

6. Buy a saw with a blade guard and don’t disable it. Before operating saws with guards, make sure they are in place and in proper working order. Kevin’s father-in-law was a master brickmason. To increase productivity, he wired the blade guard on his circular saw in the open position. Production increased until the day he set the still-running saw in his lap.

7. Prevent against kickback. If a saw blade begins to bind, immediately stop the cut and hold the saw and work piece completely still. Wait for the saw blade to stop before pulling away from a cut.

8. Discard saw blades that are chipped, bent or in any way damaged.

9. Never leave an active power tool unattended. Unplug power tools before leaving the room and store them out of children’s reach.

10. Remove all jewelry before using power tools.

Other things to consider

Be aware of your surroundings. Make sure you know where others are at all times to prevent accidents or injuries. Keep kids and pets away from tools and projects.

A clean, well-lit workspace is a safe workspace. Store power tools, sharp tools or dangerous materials on high shelves or in a locked storage cabinet out of a child’s reach.

Use the proper extension cord. If you’re tackling outdoor home improvement projects, make sure extension cords are rated for outdoor use.

Take your time. Rushing can lead to accidents, injuries, and more often than not produces an inferior finished product.

Finally, keep a first-aid kit on hand. Even the most careful among us can have accidents. It’s the nature of the home improvement beast.

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