Doctor On The House: If you want to cause a disaster then do it yourself

Safety laws don't apply to the public, so we're free to injure ourselves in the name of DIY, says Jeff Howell

EVERY week 3,500 British people need hospital treatment for DIY- related injuries, according to government statistics. I don't know where this figure stands in the overall scheme of things - such as deaths from preventable diseases in developing countries, for example - but it sounds like a lot of crutches and stitches to me.

Building work is one of the most dangerous occupations. Most deaths and serious injuries result from falls - either falling off something, or something falling on your head. In recent years workers have been persuaded, by a combination of threats and education, to wear hard hats. Steel toe- capped boots are also making something of a comeback, though more through their adoption as a fashion item than any sudden outbreak of good sense, which remains in short supply.

Hence, while it is illegal to throw things from scaffolding, every day you can see untrained building workers tossing roof slates and bricks into skips or on to the ground from great heights. Often this happens next to pavements or busy roads, and I am always surprised there are not more accidents. As an experienced construction site worker I never walk under other people's scaffolding, and I recommend you don't either.

Site work is now covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act, but of course this only applies to People At Work; as a general member of the public you are free to engage in whatever life-threatening activities you like. So while campaigners for voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill have found themselves thwarted at every legal turn, any able-bodied person still has the legal right to run up an unsecured ladder and plunge back down again.

Another example of this legal inconsistency is that a plumber installing a gas boiler in your home must belong to the Council of Registered Gas Installers (Corgi), but there is nothing to stop you buying the same boiler yourself, putting it in, and accidentally gassing your family or the neighbours. UK residents have complete freedom to gas, electrocute and bludgeon themselves or others to death in the name of DIY.

If anyone thinks I'm proposing a "nanny state" then let me hasten to say you're dead right. I'm well in favour of it; a large percentage of the population need protecting from themselves, and the rest of us need protecting from them.

On the home maintenance front, many people do not realise that you are not supposed to work while standing on a ladder. Ladders are for providing access to "safe working platforms" - scaffolding or tower scaffolds - not for balancing on while you lean over to paint the windows.

Clearly there are small jobs for which the hire of a tower could be inappropriate, but you should always treat ladders with the greatest respect. They must be secured at the top - a rope passed through a window and tied to a table leg is better than nothing - and at the bottom with a stack of bricks or bag of sand. Ladders on lawns are a particular hazard: once you start climbing one leg can easily sink in, throwing you sideways.

Ladder accidents kill 50 people every year - don't be one of them.

q You can contact Jeff Howell at the Independent on Sunday or by e-mail: Jeff@doctoronthehouse.demon.co.uk

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

Sales Executive

£20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week