Injuries occurring in the home and garden account for approximately 30% of all adult injury, and result in more days off work than workplace injury (Routley & Ozanne-Smith 1995). Many of these injuries would be prevented if the same principles of avoiding injury in the workplace were applied at home (eg lifting technique, using correct tools).
Those most commonly injured are males in the 20-39 age group (Routley & Ozanne-Smith 1995). While the most common injuries from DIY are often lacerations and foreign bodies, as physios we regularly see musculoskeletal injuries such as low back pain and shoulder and elbow complaints following home DIY and gardening (typically on a Monday morning!)
Gardening is a common precursor to low back pain. Typically our patients will report spending several hours bending over garden beds or lawns and lifting heavy bags of soil. Painting, with its repetitive nature, often leads to lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow, as it’s commonly known.
Prevention is always better than a cure. Here are some simple tips that may help to prevent some common DIY injuries.
Tips for preventing injury
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when undertaking any jobs around the house or garden. These include safety boots, safety glasses, gloves and earmuffs. Thongs are not safe footwear for most DIY activities!
- Use the right tool for the job! Simple concept, but so often we take the quick way rather than the right way. Take a few extra minutes to get a ladder rather than stand on an unstable chair.
- Check your tools and equipment for damage before using them.
- Use correct lifting techniques. For heavy loads, bend from your knees rather than your back and keep the load close to your body. Never bend and twist with any weight.
- Use a trolley wherever possible for moving heavy loads.
- Follow the instructions on the ladder! Don’t stand above the recommended rung and make sure the ground is even and the ladder is locked into place.
- Avoid prolonged static positions and performing the same task for a long period of time. Mix up your tasks so that you are not overusing a particular muscle group and take regular breaks from strenuous activities.
- Listen to your body! If something is painful or doesn’t feel right, chances are you are causing an injury. Stop and take a break or modify how you’re performing the task.
Routley, V & Ozanne-Smith, J 1995, Prevention of Injuries associated with Do-It-Yourself activities, Monash University Accident Research Centre, Department of Human Services and Health,