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The mechanism that feeds out line on my old electric weed trimmer stopped working last year, and last week I finally bought a replacement trimmer after months of futile tinkering with the old one.
While using the new trimmer to clear weeds that had grown up along the curb, I realized I was squinting to keep the debris out of my eyes. That's when the little light went on: "Maybe I should be wearing some goggles or something."
According to the National Safety Council, four out of 10 injuries that cause blindness happen at home. The common causes are do-it-yourself car repairs gone bad, cooking accidents, splashes from household chemicals, sports injuries or, as in my case, not thinking of eye protection until you've already got a jagged pebble lodged in your pupil.
Here are a few suggestions on the use of safety equipment:
> Plan for your safety and health before starting the project, because most accidents can be prevented. Consider the tools and techniques you will be using and make sure you're prepared to use them safely. Consider a hard hat for any job with a potential for heavy objects falling from above, and safety harnesses for jobs where you could fall from above ground level.
> Wear protective eyewear. More than 90 percent of all eye injuries could be prevented with protective eyewear. Users need to select the proper products for impact and chemical-splash protection depending on the job they're doing. Standard prescription glasses and sunglasses can shatter when hit by flying debris, and some goggles aren't designed to protect against chemical splashes.
> Eye protection must include protection from the ultraviolet rays of the sun if you're working outside. Remember, though, that some sunglasses can shatter, so you may need to wear goggles over your sunglasses.
> Keep your work area clean. Slips, trips and falls account for many of the injuries that occur at home. Tidy work areas help prevent these hazards. Keep extension cords, scrap wood, sawdust and other debris out of walkways.
> Wear appropriate respiratory protection. Many people wear the wrong type of protection over their nose and mouth, so they think they're protected when they're not. Disposable dust masks with a single strap do not protect the lungs _ they're only meant to give relief from nontoxic dust and pollen. For protection from harmful dusts, look for government-approved dust respirators. For extremely toxic dusts such as asbestos or lead, respirators with HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters are recommended. You need gas and vapor protection in addition to dust filters for projects such as spray painting and applying pesticides. When shopping for breathing protection, read the package carefully to be sure it was designed for the job you have in mind.
> Follow tool- and chemical-manufacturer guidelines for the safe use of their products. Most hammers sold today have a warning on them that they should be used with goggles. That warning appears because of all the nails that have popped into eyes over the years. Paints, solvents, pool chemicals, fiberglass insulation and other products all come with precautions that should be read and heeded.
> Some safety equipment is built into the tools you use, and you must make sure that built-in equipment is properly installed and undamaged. Never use a lawn mower, for instance, if the protective cover on the discharge opening is damaged or missing.
> Protect your hearing during noisy activities. The most pervasive health hazard, hearing damage, is probably the least recognized. If you can't hear someone talking to you from three feet away, then you're probably exposing yourself to hazardous noise levels. Circular saws, power trimmers and leaf blowers all may call for ear plugs or muffs.
> Protect your skin with gloves and clothing. Protective coveralls can keep contaminants off your skin. Worn during fiberglass insulation, coveralls can prevent itching, for example. Likewise, gloves reduce exposure to contaminants that can cause skin irritations. Also wear gloves when working with hot or sharp materials.
> Ventilate your work areas. Simply opening a window or garage door will do a lot to reduce the buildup of contaminants in a home. Many asphyxiations take place every year because people fail to follow the product instruction to use in a well-ventilated area. It also may be a good idea to use a respirator when working with a product that requires ventilation.
> Keep a fire extinguisher handy during projects. Fires can spread quickly under any circumstances, but a fire can really get out of hand if it has extra fuel in the form of the flammable chemicals and debris associated with home improvement work. Often during renovation projects many of the fire warning systems in homes are disabled because power is shut off in the work area. Portable, battery-operated smoke detectors and fully charged ABC-grade fire extinguishers help reduce the risk of a serious fire.
> Don't wear loose clothing or dangling jewelry when working with power tools. Long hair that is allowed to hang free is also hazardous. It's easy for anything dangling loosely from the body to get caught in the rapid spinning of a power tool. Loose clothing or long hair can drag a user into a blade in the blink of an eye, causing serious injury or death. Tuck in all loose clothing and bind long hair. Duct tape can temporarily mend
dangling portions of clothing, and a hat can keep hair out of harm's way.
Have an idea, question or concern? Contact James Cummings at 225-2395 or jcumming@aytonDailyNews.com, or write to the Features Department, Dayton Daily News, 45 S. Ludlow St., Dayton, Ohio 45402.
Cox News Service