Six common DIY injuries and how to prevent them

TV shows such as The Block have made millions of Australians passionate about DIY. The appeal is real, because with some skill and determination, you can turn an old house with good bones, into a stunningly beautiful, renovated home. Yet for any DIY quest, it’s important that you understand the risks involved.

Fast Facts About Aussie DIY injuries

  • 30% of all adult injuries in Australia occur in the home and garden.
  • Home injuries result in more time off work than workplace injuries.
  • If the principles of workplace OH&S were applied to home DIY, such as using the correct tools and lifting techniques, it would prevent many home injuries.
  • Young men aged between 20 to 39 years old are the most commonly injured in home DIY accidents.  
  • The most common injuries are lacerations and wounds from foreign bodies and operating machinery, followed by musculoskeletal injuries, such as lower back pain, shoulder and elbow complaints.

Source: Monash University, Accident Research Centre, Department of Human Services and Health (1999) Prevention of Injuries associated with Do-It-Yourself activities.

Prevention is always better than a cure. So here are some simple tips from Maroubra Road Physiotherapy, which may help to prevent some common DIY injuries.

Wear protective gear

We don’t want to dampen your enthusiasm for keeping your home beautiful, however you should wear protective gear when doing DIY at home.  You should wear steel-capped boots, safety glasses, safety gloves and earmuffs when operating power tools.

Many avoidable injuries to the back, feet and hands frequently occur because individuals weren’t wearing protective gear. Despite the Aussie stereotype, thongs are not considered to be safe DIY footwear. If you really must wear rugby shorts when doing DIY, at least make sure they aren’t Queensland maroon!

See the table below for a startling reality check, about why protective gear is always a good idea when using power tools.

Source: DIY injuries fact sheet

A DIY expert always checks his tools and techniques

Doing a preliminary safety check of your tools is an often overlooked part of any DIY job. When getting your tools and equipment such as ladders, saws and grinders out of storage, make sure you check that they are still operating correctly before you use them.

For this reason, it’s always a good idea to keep safety guides for your power tools and equipment. They provide important insights. It’s not commonly known that power tools can cause tennis elbow, more frequently than actually playing tennis! Firmly gripping a power tool over many hours results in pain in the outside of the elbow.

Lift and carry furniture the back-friendly way

Many people visit our clinic because they have incorrectly lifted heavy furniture or other objects, resulting in injury.

There is a correct way to lift heavy items, which will protect your knees and back.

For heavy loads, bend your body to lift from the knees, rather than bending from your lower back.

While lifting the item, keep it close to your body and never bend or twist with any heavy object. For carrying or transporting heavy items like white ware, TVs or sofas, use a wheel-trolley or gurney.  

At Maroubra Road Physiotherapy, when it comes to common back and neck injuries, we see the whole person, rather than just the injury. We create step-by-step programmes that are uniquely tailored to meet individual circumstances and needs.

Be careful on that ladder, daredevil!  

Summer is an amazing time to get outside and clean the gutters, paint the exterior of the home or fix any broken roof tiles. In order to ensure you don’t fall and experience serious multiple traumas or even death, you should stabilise your ladder on even ground.

If you must climb up high on uneven ground, make sure you have a supporting person holding the ladder steady beneath you at all times. Always make sure that the ladder is locked in place before heading up.

Avoid repetitive DIY tasks for long periods

Are you going to paint the house, pave the driveway or retile the family room this summer? Repetitive tasks that require repeated movements over many hours can result in muscle overuse injuries, strains, sprains to the hands, arms, neck, back and shoulders.

Painting the ceiling or walls often leads to shoulder injuries, like a bursitis or an injury to the rotator cuff.

This is because keeping your arm elevated overhead may compromise the position of your shoulder. This can result in a pinching of the soft tissues where the shoulder blade meets the collar bone. A sudden movement during this kind of work could result in an acute tearing of the muscles in the shoulder.

To avoid this, make sure you get up and have a break or do something else every two hours to avoid repetitive strain injuries.

Our friendly and highly experienced team at Maroubra Road Physiotherapy treat these kinds of injuries every day. We use a combination of soft tissue release techniques, exercise-based rehabilitation and manual therapy.  This helps to strengthen the muscles and prevent future re-injury.

Avoid staying stationary in one position too long

Gardening involves many hours hunched over the garden bed or hauling heavy bags of potting mix. If you need to remain still for long periods, this can cause a lower back injury.  By doing appropriate pause exercises and maintaining postural awareness, you can avoid common strains and sprains. Doing so will enable you to cope better with the physical demands of DIY.

Good luck on your quest for a renovated home and garden! You can expect a few aches and pains if you’re not used to lots of exercise. However if this persists for more than a week, then you should get a physiotherapy assessment to ensure that you don’t worsen your injury or lengthen your recovery time.

Doing so, also means you are recovering from injury in a personalised way that is safe and beneficial to your health. Speak with the team at Maroubra Road Physiotherapy today to book an appointment on (02) 9314 3888.

References

Flinders University, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017) DIY injuries fact sheet

Monash University, Accident Research Centre, Department of Human Services and Health (1999) Prevention of Injuries associated with Do-It-Yourself activities.

CanStar Blue (2018) Six DIY injuries to watch out for.

DIY at home Government of NSW, Department of Health (2014) Do-It-Yourself Safely.   

Government of Western Australia. Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (2016) Avoid injuries with DIY work

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