Safety On The Job: Building Safety Into Everything You Do


Safety On The Job Begins With You

If you think taking measures for the sake of safety is a pain, try a fractured leg. Accidents happen in an instant but a scar lasts forever…Safety on the job isn’t just a good idea, it’s should be second nature by now.

I used to fly airplanes and got my license in 2001. I had to learn an acronym that every pilot learns and should follow before each and every flight. I have adopted it as a personal safety quick-check for my own handyman business.

I.M.S.A.F.E. – it stands for:

 I. –   Illness. (Am I well enough to fly [or, do the job])
M. – Medication. (Have I been taking prescription or over the counter drugs?)
S. –  Stress. (Am I under psychological pressure from the job? Worried about costs or other financial matters, health problems or family matters?)
A. – Alcohol. (Have I been drinking within 8 hours? 24 hours?)
F. –  Fatigue. (Am I tired and not adequately rested?)
E. – Eating. (Am I adequately nourished?)

According to the Department Of Labor, 4,547 people were fatally injured in 2010 on the job. Wow! That’s about 4,547 too many… For an entrepreneur working a small handyman business, safety concerns all too often go by the wayside until something happens. Every tradesman wants and needs to learn tricks for speed so he can work effectively and efficiently enough to maximize his income. Of course, speed is important but it only takes one mishap to change a life. Think safety. Here are some of my ideas for increasing your level of safety on the job:

Health Comes First

Health in general is measured within a balance between diet, exercise and rest. No handyman can work at their peak if they’re tired or hungry. If you know you have a big day ahead, be sure and get plenty of rest. Eat a good breakfast and carry a healthy lunch. Stay hydrated.

Think Safety On The Road Between Jobs

Not talking on the phone while driving to and from jobs has to be mentioned. Drive carefully and think about driving. My only on the job auto accident happened while I was looking up a contact on my cell phone. I learned this the hard way. Don’t copy my mistake. Fortunately, I only had to pay for the nice gentleman’s new back bumper. Safety on the road is safety on the job.


Turn off the power before you begin. I admit, I’m guilty of changing outlets and switches without turning off the power. I’ve gotten away with it almost every time too. Almost every time. I was younger and less experienced though, and I’ve changed my habits fro the better. Don’t carry power tools by the cord. Report loose or bare wiring to the homeowner every time you see it.

Understand The Family Dynamic

Often, jobs are performed with family members and/or pets present. A safety minded  handyman will take mental note of every person within proximity of the job and effectively communicate the possible dangers of the job to everyone there. At times, unforeseen situations will arise that the handyman is obliged to let everyone know about as well. Personal safety awareness is important, but communicating safety concerns with everyone around is equally important. Kindly ask a talkative client to allow you to stay focused on the job. Because you are often in a client’s home, they are not thinking “on the job”, so it is your job to ensure a safe working environment.


Falls are extremely common. More common than you might think. Falling from a ladder often happens with improper use. Using lots of scaffolding increases the possibility of something (or someone) falling. Remember that debris can go airborne when prying or hammering, so remember to set the right boundaries. Prying and hammering can lead to going off balance too. Make sure your footing is always secure. Safety on the job usually only requires just a little forethought.

Learn how to lift heavy objects properly. Don’t wreck your back.

Use Common Sense

Protect your feet, hands, eyes and head when the job calls for it. Stay aware of pets that are present.  Make awareness a by-word for everyone at the job site. Make family members aware of hazards and set boundaries. Learning to do things quickly is profitable, but not unless you work at a safe speed. One slip up can erase months or even years of profits.

Always Use The Right Tool For The Job

Screwdrivers are not chisels, and attaching one tool to another for added leverage is unsafe to say the least.

Use The Right Ladder For The Right Job

There are a lot of cheap ladders available at a lot of prices. My rule of thumb is this: The higher you go up, the greater the investment you’ll need for safety. A 16′ ladder can be fatal if you fall off at the wrong time. Painting a ceiling can cause a sore neck so always take regular breaks when painting overhead.

Familiarize yourself with OSHA standards.

Most small handyman businesses are sole proprietorships (like mine) and don’t think too much about OSHA, but “safety on the job” standards they set are basically good for everyone. Proper training for specific tools and equipment should be obtained before operating something new.

Working Alone Requires Added Safety.

I remember being asked once to trim trees three feet away from a roof that was two stories up. The house was vacant. I turned the job down for my own safety. For me it was a personal issue. You may not draw the line where I do, but for me, I just didn’t feel safe taking on this particular job.

first aid kit for the job site is safety in actionTake an appropriate health and safety training course if you feel you need it. If you’re unsure whether or not you need a job safety course, then you probably do. Don’t let time pass because you are just too busy when you know you need to address job safety concerns. Carry a well equipped first aid kit. It may cost a few dollars and time to put together but if you ever need it you’ll be glad it’s there. Have an “accident action plan” in place so you’ll be ready if something does happen.

Maintain high morale

A recent argument, a stressful situation or feeling sad will take your focus off the job at hand and increase the chance of an accident. Remember; I.M.S.A.F.E.!


Don’t work in clutter. Clean as you go and stay aware of clutter that could be a hazard that you are obliged to leave alone. Speak up if it presents a particularly dangerous hazard to your job. Keep your tools clean and in good working order.

Don’t give in to unrealistic deadlines

Unrealistic job deadlines are an easy trap to fall into. We all want to make money and make it fast. But, it will lead to sloppy work habits. Scheduling in a realistic manner promotes safety on the job and keeps you making money. A hurried job leads to sloppy work, and it can lead to an accident as well. Prevention is good medicine.

When it comes to safety education, don’t “learn as you go”. Know the basics and review them at regular intervals. Practice good safety habits – accidents can be costly. Insurance for handymen is available at relatively reasonable rates and should be carried by all handymen.

My disclaimer – These on the job safety tips are in my opinion good ideas to follow but should not be viewed as a complete safety list or as a replacement to other on the job safety guides for individuals or specific job situations. The content here is for general informational purposes only.


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