Tag Archives: safety

Good work practices

When you build your house, develop good work habits, and strongly encourage the same in your employees. Watch for dangerous practices and situations, and do not tolerate them.

Wear protective gear when appropriate.  Tie back long hair, and wear well fitting clothing. Leave the jewelry at home.

Keep all tools in good repair and all guards in place. Sharp tools are less dangerous than dull ones. Store them safely.

Keep your work site clean and uncluttered. I know I have said much of this before but to keep a work site safe it is worth emphasizing.

Make certain you and your employees are familiar with the tools, and know how they are used.

Loud unexpected noises can startle people and cause accidents. If you are going to drop a sledge hammer from the rafters onto the floor, give a warning.

Discourage smoking while working. It can be a fire hazard as well as a time waster.

Discourage the use of cell phones. They are distractions and thus dangerous. They can be huge time consumers as well.

accidentAbsolutely no alcohol or drugs should be allowed, nor should anybody be allowed to work while impaired. A hard drinking carpenter I know will not accept even one beer on a hot day while working. He says he likes his limbs and digits better than he likes the booze. Leave the drinks till the end of the work day. They will be appreciated all the more.

Start work at the same time each day, and use normal working hours, so that employees, delivery people, and inspectors know what to expect. Working overtime daily, to try to meet a schedule, is costly, and in my opinion not that productive. Tired employees slow down, and may not do good work. It is better to hire more people, if possible.  Building is hard work. Try to limit your days to 8 hours, and take weekends off. If you are building in your spare time, this is not going to be possible, but try not to overdo it. Imposing an irregular work schedule on employees will likely not be successful for long.

Do take a break every couple of hours for at least 10 minutes for coffee, snack or smoke. Don’t deduct this from an employees time. Camp chairs are nice for break time.

Take at least a half hour for lunch, and an hour if you are leaving the site to eat.

Don’t be afraid to treat yourself and your employees occasionally. Good work deserves a reward. Pizzas for lunch, or a cold beer after work, can go a long way towards keeping people loyal and productive.

Don’t forget toilet facilities, especially if you employ both sexes.

A source of cool drinking water is essential on hot days. You may want to have salt tablets available to guard against heat stroke.

A microwave or BBQ, and a coffee maker on site is nice, if it is inconvenient to leave the site for lunch.

Keep a good first aid kit nearby, and emergency services on speed dial on your cell phone.

Don’t be to stuck on using up the last few minutes in a work day. If you occasionally quit a little early ,your employees are less prone to complain if they need to work a little later once in awhile.

Pay regularly and on time. You can’t expect good work from people who are not sure if they will be paid. If some one should require an advance, I prefer to give an out of pocket loan, instead of going through the paperwork. Of course I expect to be paid back on payday.

When using tradespeople, be sure to schedule carefully, so people aren’t falling all over each other.

Don’t throw a fit over a mistake. Everybody will make one on occasion, and as long as no one is hurt, they should be more a source of amusement than a catastrophe. Expect good work from your employees, but understand that you may have to teach them some things. You may be able to learn from them as well, so listen to their input.

The better they work, the happier you will be.The happier they are, the better they will work.

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Working safely

 It is difficult to over stress safety, whether it is working safely, or safe design, when building your house.

The most important measure for working safely on the job site, is to always be aware of your surroundings, and the locations of your co-workers or employees. If you see dangerous situations or practices, correct them or at least point them out. Some situations present an immediate peril, while other are a threat to general health. As an example, smoke or dust can be a threat to future health, while missing saw guards and open stairwells are an immediate peril. Before starting work, look around carefully to identify possible dangers.

The most obvious dangers are less likely to be the cause of accidents, than the more subtle and less noticeable ones. Workers are aware of a roof edge, but may not expect a hole in the floor, such as a stairwell, where a step backwards can hurt.

A proper  saw guard for working safely

a proper guard

Missing or inoperable guards on saws, or other spinning equipment, is extremely dangerous. Get them fixed immediately, or discard the tool. The missing fingers you see on some carpenters are usually the result of a saw without a guard. While it is true that modern medicine can often reattach severed digits, they will probably never work the same, and they will hurt for a long time. I once ran a finger between a belt and pulley. Luckily the belt was quite loose so I still have that finger, but it “sho nuff did pain me some, pard”.

Keep the work area clean. Working safely amongst a mess is impossible. Debris creates tripping hazards , and dust to get in your eyes and lungs. Piercings from nails are are painful, and can result in infection or disease. Discarded knife blades are still sharp enough to be dangerous. Cleaning up after yourself is the simplest safety measure of all, and the most often neglected. Tradesmen are often the worst offenders. Leaving their messes for others to clean up.

A messy desk may only be a sign of poor organization, but a messy construction site shows a disregard for worker safety.

Be careful when handling long material. It is quite easy to whack someone alongside the head when you have a 16 foot 2 x4 over your shoulder.

Whats overhead? Make sure everything up there is secure, and try not to have some one working directly under another. Don’t leave heavy tools such as hammers on ladders, ledges, or on the top of walls. They usually shake loose when your head or toes are directly underneath. Poorly secured and braced walls or trusses are also a hazard.

The higher you are, the more likely you are to get hurt, if you fall. The steeper and more slippery the surface, the more likely you will fall. For working safely, utilize safety harnesses, and/or guardrails when appropriate.

Weather can create dangerous situations.

Visibility can be compromised, surfaces can become slippery, poorly secured walls can blow down, and material might be blown around. A sheet of plywood carried by the wind is extremely dangerous. Your balance may be affected by wind, and you could be blown of a roof. Avoid working, or find a safe area when the weather is threatening.

Power nailers can give painful wounds, and nails can fly a good distance. Wear eye protection at all times. My wife was once working in a hospital, when part of a floor was brought in, with a fellows foot nailed to it. Happily, they sawed out a piece of the floor instead of taking off the fellows leg. In either case, the boss was not a happy man.

working safely with electricity

A shocking situation

Electricity can kill. It is hard to imagine working without electricity or power tools today, but electricity must be handled with respect. It is equally dangerous whether supplied from the grid, or by portable equipment. Be extra wary, when working on wet ground, or when on a roof. Look above you before moving ladders, or lifting equipment, to be certain they will not contact overhead wires. Utilize insulating footwear, and use fiberglass ladders, when working around electricity. Most of us have sawed off our electric cords at some time, and the usual result is no more than sparks and annoyance, but if you were standing in a puddle of water with a poorly insulated tool, the results could be worse. Water and electricity can be a dangerous combination.

Once as a young buck, I dropped a tool after getting a shock from it while standing on wet ground. For some reason, I decided to turn the switch off with my foot. Wet ground, wet boots, the result was a severe jolt running from one foot to the other. Besides the pain, it could have adversely affected my reproductive abilities.

Death is often the result of being run over, or crushed by heavy equipment.

Be extra careful when working near, or operating heavy equipment. Make sure there are no children nearby. Use the safety belts, if they are supplied. I have been left hanging from a safety belt when I slipped into an excavation with a skid steer, but I could have been ejected, and crushed beneath it. When leaving the unit,, always make sure that buckets, blades or whatever are secured,  or firmly on the ground. Children are fascinated by these huge toys, and can inadvertently lower bucket or blade on someone.

Hard hats, safety glasses, steel toed boots, gloves, and sturdy, well fitted clothing are important.

Tool belts are very handy, and used by many workers. They can, however, be hard on your back and often get caught on things. For my self, I prefer a vest with shoulder straps, or suspenders on my tool belt. It also helps keep my pants on. Overalls with a bib and many pockets are also a good choice.

ladder safety

Look out below

Working safely with ladders and scaffolds is essential. Falls can be deadly. Learn the proper way to set a ladder and do not overextend yourself when working off them. It is pretty scary to ride your ladder to the ground, and not as entertaining as the rodeo. Ladder accidents are often used in the movies for comedy, but are not so funny when they happen to you. Secure your ladder when working on a roof. I have spent considerable time trying to get someones attention when my ladder blew down. Pretty unproductive.

Make certain that scaffolding is properly set up, and sturdy enough for the job. You might come through the fall alright, if a scaffold should collapse, but all that crap falling on top of you can be really painful.

Use your tools as they were intended. Trying to cut rebar with a circular saw can result in lots of flying teeth, perhaps your own.

Watch your eyes around lasers or welders. The intense light can be damaging.

Splinters are a common hazard that are not often dangerous, but are always painful. Use a firm grip when handling wood or steel, and avoid sliding your hands, or other unprotected body parts, over the material. Use gloves when you can.

Wear dust masks or respirators, when working with insulation, sawing material that could contain hazardous ingredients, or when using dangerous and volatile chemicals. Try to work in well ventilated areas.

Always be wary of fire ,and possible sources of ignition.

Remember that any injury large or small, means reduced efficiency, wasted time, and money lost, as well as discomfort and risk to life and limb.

Accidents can happen, in spite of the level of care, so it is wise to have paid up workers compensation, or other appropriate insurance. Working safely will keep your claims down, and your costs low.


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Why build your home yourself?

The reasons you may decide to build your home yourself can be extremely varied.

I am not going to attempt to list them all here. Rather I will set out my own reasons and a few others that I imagine may motivate another person.

Teremok in Talashkino
A modest homeМинеева Ю. (Julmin) / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

One of my motivations has always been to accept a challenge and test my own limits. There is great satisfaction in a job well done. To build your home is a relatively safe way to indulge since you can always call on professionals to guide you or correct your errors. Permitting and inspections can keep you from erecting a dangerous building and inspectors are an invaluable resource for information and advice. You must however be very careful to avoid unsafe practices during construction. Injuries to yourself or your help will take all the fun out of the project and could prove very expensive.

Another important consideration is of course cost.  If you build your home yoursef you can reduce the cost of a new home by 50% or more depending on how much you do yourself and on how astute a buyer you may be. You may be able to use recycled material in some cases and friends and relatives may be willing to give a hand occasionally for the cost of BBQ and beer. If you require a mortgage every dollar you save could be doubled over time. The last home I built for myself was completely paid for by the equity in my old home. At the same time it is important to make any estimate high for the sake of safety. Raising money to complete an over budget project can be very difficult.

The desire to build your home to higher standards might lead you to do it yourself. Contractors often in the name of profits will take shortcuts that can reduce the soundness of the home as well as contribute to higher future operating costs and some times even create possible dangers. Often they will just neglect items that could increase a homes efficiency or safety. I have seen many examples of floors and walls not well secured to the foundation and roofs not well secured to walls. I have seen high efficiency furnaces installed as indirect vent when direct vent would have been simple and would increase safety and efficiency. I have even seen sheathing blown loose from framing because of insufficient nailing. I could give many more examples of error both by contractors and do it yourself people but that is good for an entire article in itself. Some errors are hilarious.

Innovative and unusual design items incorporated for comfort, utility, environmental or other reasons may well be very costly when done by contractors because of unfamiliarity. They may also require fine tuning that could be beyond the scope of contractors. Only yourself as the designer may be qualified to do this well.

This article would not be complete without pointing out some things you should consider before embarking on such a major project as building your home yourself..

Do you have any experience at all with the many trades involved?

Each one takes considerable study and in some cases practice. Even if you hire sub-contractors you will have to supervise and do quality control. Mistakes can be costly if rarely extremely so. I have made some big ones that were caught by inspectors and in some cases cost me several hours and dollars. Some happened simply because I was unfamiliar with the building codes or did not interpret them correctly. Perhaps you have friends or relatives in the trades willing to give help or advice. Be a little careful here as some tradesmen may have no experience in residential work. In our area many electricians do nothing but oilfield and industrial work and are not familiar with house wiring. An option is to hire professionals for the more difficult parts and do yourself what you are comfortable with. An example would be to have an electrician do the service entrance or a plumber to do the waste water rough ins.

Do you have the time?

Nothing is more tiring than spending practically every weekend and evening for a year or more trying to get your house to the move in stage. It is possible (depending on size and complexity) to build your house in 4 months or less with a couple of experienced helpers but doing it in your spare time could take 2 or 3 years. It is difficult to hire help to work only when you are available. Financing is also much more difficult the longer the project takes.

Can you arrange the financing?

The Breakers Newport
A little too ambitious for your first tryUpstateNYer / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

It is much easier to finance the purchase of an existing house than to find a lender willing to take a risk on your ability to build your house. A fixer upper that you can live in while renovating is easier to finance and is a good way to gain valuable experience before you take that big step. This link will take you to a good site for renovation and maintenance advice. You could also gain experience by helping friends build or renovate in return for help when you build your home.

Finally, what level of involvement do you wish to take?

This can range from doing the general contracting from off the shelf plans and material lists to hands on for everything from initial planning to landscaping.

The route you choose will depend on the time you have available, your skills and your budget. In spite of the increased complexity of today’s housing it is actually much easier to build your home than it once was. This is because of the internet as a source of information, a place to purchase and compare prices and even courses on many aspects of construction. The much wider availability of rental equipment and the proliferation of businesses geared to the do it yourself crowd is also of considerable help.

In future articles I will deal with most of the aspects of building your home including updates on the progress of my own current build. This will be my 4th complete house build and is a downsize so should go fairly well but there are times I can screw up the simplest things, some stories of which I will relate to you in the future.

I also intend to stray from the subject occasionally if for nothing else than to combat boredom.

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