Before you start, think about what could go wrong and try to prevent it.
* Secure top of high ladders to building.
* Check feet of ladder where there is any possibility of slipping.
* Do not use ladders with any broken or loose parts.
* Insert block of timber into plastic spouting before leaning ladder against it. That prevents spouting breaking.
* A roof ladder makes working on roofs easier and safer.
* Check stays are fixed to prevent steps from spreading and collapsing.
* With steps that open out to a ladder, check effectiveness of the locking hook that prevents folding.
* Do not leave tools on top of steps. They can drop on anyone moving or knock the steps.
Loud or continuous noise can make you permanently deaf. There is no cure. Wear quality ear-muffs when using power tools and lawn mowers.
Many power tools, processes and chemicals can throw up or splash material that could damage your eyes. Wear safety glasses when using such things as grinders, cut off wheels, disc sanders, circular saws or paint stripper.
Dust and fumes
Inhaling dust and fumes can damage your lungs. Wear appropriate masks when exposed to fumes or dust, especially where a job is prolonged, e.g. using a belt sander. When using solvent based glues or finishes, allow maximum ventilation to disperse vapors.
Asbestos dust is extremely dangerous if inhaled. Though no longer used in building materials, it is present in some existing insulation, textured ceilings, cladding, floor vinyl and corrugated roofing. Never saw, sand, scrape or water blast any asbestos material.
WARNING - The grey backing on some floor vinyl is often asbestos. Sanding to remove any remaining stuck to the floor should only be done by a qualified professional sander using safe techniques. Removal of textured ceilings, cladding, roofing or insulation containing asbestos should be done by qualified, and in some cases certified, contractors. If in doubt about identifying asbestos, consult your local Healthy and Safety authority for advice.
Ingesting or inhaling lead, as dust, can cause brain damage and even death. Children are particularly susceptible. Older paints still on your home may contain lead. Sanding or stripping them can produce highly dangerous dust and paint debris.
* Always collect paint stripping and dispose of safely. Do not burn.
* Only use electric sanders with efficient dust collection bags.
* Wear an adequate dust mask when hand sanding old paint.
* When sanding inside, remove curtains, cover carpet and vacuum afterwards with commercial cleaner with good dust filter. Wet wipe flat surfaces.
* When sanding or stripping outside, use drop cloths to collect dust and debris.
* After sanding, wash face and hands before eating.
* Change out of work clothes and wash them separately.
How to check for lead in paint
* Use a sharp blade.
* Cut paint film at an angle to expose all layers.
* Apply a few drops of sodium sulphide - available from chemists.
* If any layer turns black, lead is present.
* Wire netting and corrugated steel (among other materials) can cut your hands even when handled carefully. Wear leather gloves when doing jobs like cleaning out spouting under corrugated roofing.
* Some chemicals and caustic compounds can burn your hands. Wear rubber gloves when directly handling materials like cement based products, such as grouts, paint stripper, sugar soap, and solvents.
* Always use an earth leakage device (or transformer) when working with power tools outside.
* Do not use frayed or damaged electrical cables, or power tools with broken plugs.
* Have electric cables covered or turned off when doing any work, such as painting, near them.
* Be aware of overhead cables when erecting metal ladders.
* Be aware of underground cables when digging.
* Keep cutting tools sharp. Forcing a blunt chisel or saw increases your chances of injuring yourself and/or damaging your work.
* Keep tools, especially power tools, in good operating order - the retractable blade guard on a circular saw should work smoothly and reliably.
NB: Only use tools for their designed purpose.
Common sense home security
* Cut back shrubs and trees that offer intruders concealment close to the house; especially by windows.
* Have high fences only where you need them for privacy. Areas visible from the street or the neighbor’s are safer than parts of your property totally obscured from outside view. Unless they are very high, fences are easier to climb over than hedges.
* Get to know your neighbors well enough to keep an eye on each other’s homes. Know their phone numbers.
* Do not put your name on your letter box.
* Lock doors and windows with good quality locks. Do not leave ladders, or tools that can be used for house-breaking, lying around.
* Put deadlocks, ie locks that can only be opened with a key, on all accessible windows and skylights. Also use patio bolts and locking window handles. Even if the intruder breaks the glass, the window cannot be opened.
* Put deadlocks on all exterior doors. Intruders cannot get out through the doors and they cannot take your large valuables.
* Install an alarmed security system, with motion activated sensor lights around your home. These sensors can spot intruders and activate an alarm, resulting in a loud siren and red light; a silent alarm in your bedroom; a signal telephoned to a monitoring service; or any combination of those.
* Padlocks and strong locks, like a staple and hasp or bolts, are economical for garages, sheds and gates.
Cheap but clever
* Double hung sashes can be locked together, preventing either from being opened, by drilling a hole through the two rails halfway up the window and slipping in a strong nail or bolt. Entry is very difficult without smashing glass, though once inside, a burglar can pull the nail out.
* Crunching gravel paths are impossible to walk on quietly. A good warning system.
* Thorny shrubs or old roses under windows repel prowlers.
Women living alone
* Leave a pair of men's boots by the back door.
* Fit a door guard or concealed security chain.
* Fit a door viewer.
* Only include your initials and surname in the phone book.
NB: However, do not sacrifice personal safety to protect your possessions. If there is a fire, you need to be able to unlock and exit quickly. Leave a key in deadlocks when you are at home.
When you are away from home
* Do not advertise the fact with drawn curtains, piled up mail, or uncut lawns.
* Leave lights and radios on, or connected to a timer. Change the pattern periodically.
* Do not leave tools and ladders lying around. Lock them up.
* Have a neighbor change washing on the line.
* Turn the phone bell down so it cannot be heard from the street.
* Never leave spare keys or notes to friends in obvious places.
What does an alarm system consist of?
* Passive Infrared Detectors which detect body heat and movement; and/or magnetic contact switches on doors and windows that sound when opened.
* Possibly a panic button. Press it and the alarm sounds immediately.
* A keypad(s) so you can arm and disarm the system.
* A control panel containing the electronic "brain". Possibly connected to the phone line.
* Usually both internal and external sirens.
Features of a good alarm system
* Battery backed alarm. If the power is off, the alarm still operates. Beware: if your telephone relies on an answer phone, computer or fax, it may not work when the power is off.
* Dual or quad system detectors. Using more than one type of sensor, these units substantially reduce false alarms.
* Battery backed external siren, with double skin to deter tampering.
* Connected to phone line so capable of being monitored. You can "bolt on" remote facilities that allow you to control all the electrics in the house through a telephone keypad.
* The ability to arm some areas of your home and not others. At night you might arm the sensors in all rooms except your bedroom and bathroom.
* Well hidden control panel.
In homes where it is difficult to run cables inside walls, wireless technology is useful, and becoming increasingly dependable. However it relies on batteries being regularly checked and replaced.
This is not possible with every system. Your alarm is connected via the phone line to a monitoring company, who are notified when you arm the system, ie when you leave the house, and is alerted if the alarm sounds. They may even be able to monitor which areas or rooms have intruders in. An alternative is to programme the alarm to phone a friend or relative. Obviously, that relies on somebody always being available.
This may be, but usually is not, the same firm as the monitoring company. When the monitoring service is alerted by your alarm, a response team is dispatched to check your place out.
You might just choose an alarm system, and rely on the sirens to scare off intruders and alert you and your neighbors to break-ins. Or you might take the whole package.
The three legs of the system, electronic, monitoring and response must be well coordinated. The weak link is usually the response service. It is great if your response company covers only a suburb or two in your immediate area, and has several cars on the road. Within a minute or two of your alarm sounding, someone could be there. But if you live in a small but spread out city there may be only one response team on duty, and at any time they could be half an hour from your home. That sort of delay means a reliable system, one that is not prone to false alarms, all the more important. Your neighbors have to know that when your alarm sounds, it is serious.
Over 90% of alarm calls are false. Of those some 40% are caused by owner error. False alarms destroy the credibility of any alarm system. After your neighbors hear your unmonitored system wailing for the twentieth time in two months, they stop hearing it at all. An alarm is only any use if someone notices it: someone other than burglars that is