Some of us enjoy a spot of weekend DIY. Others are less enthusiastic but do the fix-ups anyway. And while there are many benefits of doing-it-yourself such as saving on labour costsi, there are safety and legal reasons why the majority of plumbing and electrical tasks need to be left to the professionals.
DIY jobs can put you and other people at risk of injury or death. And if you don't get something done right, you could end up putting people at risk and damaging property in the future.
Nationwide, figures from the National Injury Surveillance Unit show that more than 25,000 DIY-ers were hospitalised last year from ladder falls, nail gun injuries, and accidents from lawnmowers and power toolsii. In Victoria alone there are 15 deaths and more than 2,000 seriously injured every year from home owners doing their own maintenanceiii. Males are 4 times more likely to be injured whilst undertaking DIY tasksiii.
A Monash University study in 1999 found that injuries sustained by falling from ladders were the leading causes of DIY hospital admissions and death in Victoriaiv. The report also indicated that power saws, grinders, handsaws, chainsaws, welders, knives and drills are tools most commonly responsible for severe injuryiv.
The National DIY Safety Report found that 60% of people doing maintenance jobs around the home do not wear protective gearv. The 2012 report also found that one in three experienced health problems (anything from breathlessness after using aerosols/paint to eye injuries and sliced fingers) after doing DIYv.
Because of the dangers associated with them, certain electrical and plumbing jobs must be performed by a licenced tradesmanvi. In Queensland, you can be fined up to $40,000 for performing illegal DIY electrical workvii. And in Western Australia, you could be looking at a maximum penalty of $5,000 for certain plumbing tasksviii. Check your relevant state regulations for more information on the plumbing and electrical tasks that you may and may not do around the home.
You should always make sure the plumber or electrician you are hiring has a valid licence. Request to see their licence before hiring them. Not only will this help ensure that the work carried out complies with the appropriate Australian Standard but it will also ensure that you're covered insurance-wise in the case of defective workvi. Be aware that licence requirements of plumbers and electricians vary across states/territories. It's also worth noting that while you might be able to purchase parts in shops, you may need a licence to install whatever you have bought.
Plumbing jobs regarding drinking water, sewage, or hot water can put you at risk of illness or injury.
A slowly draining tub, shower, sink or toilet could indicate a clogged sewer / septic lineix. If a plunger doesn't do the trickx, contact a licensed plumber as soon as possible so the problem can be identified and fixed. Untreated sewer issues can become very messy and unsanitary: polluted water with nowhere else to flow can come back into the house via the plumbing, and this could put your and your family's health at risk.
The water heating system is another thing not to be messed around with. Hot water can put you at risk of burns and scalding. Unless the hot water tank is leaking (in which case the problem is obvious), it may take a while to find out what has happened. A plumber will be able to quickly - and safely - identify and solve the problem for you.
The risk associated with certain plumbing jobs has meant that the law has stepped in. In Victoria effectively all plumbing work must be carried out by a registered plumbervi. And while different states have their own rules, National Secretary of the Master Plumbers Association Paul Naylor recommends, as a rule, that licensed plumbers should carry out any work to the installation of a drinking water system or sewer linevi.
Fiddling with electricity can be dangerous, especially when you're not sure of what you're doing. Approximately 1,493 people in Australia were hospitalised as a result of an electrical injury during the two year period 2002-04xi.
If your electrical system is experiencing frequent overheating or lights are flickering, there may be loose connections in your electrical box at the fusesxii. The electrical box houses fused connections between your house electric circuits and the mains. Fiddling with the elements inside the box puts you at risk of high-voltage electric shock. Such tasks can be extremely dangerous and should only be dealt with by a licensed electrician.
If fuses are continually blowing or breakers constantly being tripped, there is likely a problem with the household electric circuit the relevant fuse or breaker is responsible for. In such an event it is important to have an electrician investigate the faultxii. A good electrician will ensure that your home's outlets and switches are properly installed, select and install wires and cables of a correct size, as well as perform precise circuit wiring.
DIY can be a satisfying way to improve your home. But, as the figures show, accidents and injuries do happen as a result of home maintenance projects. Don't put yourself and your family at risk of injury, death or financial hardship for the sake of a tradie's fee.For financial security, take out life insurance and avoid taking on DIY jobs that are illegal or beyond your abilities.
i Williams, C., 2008, Re-thinking the motives of do-it-yourself (DIY) consumers, The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, vol. 18, no. 3, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09593960802113885
i Hansen, J., 2011, DIY disasters leave men broken, 26 June 2011, http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sydney-news/diy-disasters-leave-men-broken/story-e6freuzi-1226082041002
iii Monash Injury Research Institute, 2011, DIY brochures, http://www.monash.edu.au/miri/research/reports/other/diyfacts.html
iv Ashby, K. (1999) Victorian Injury Surveillance and Applied Research Function, Monash University Accident Research Centre: Hazards, Injuries associated with Do-It-Yourself maintenance activities, http://www.mihsr.monash.org/miri/research/research-areas/home-sport-and-leisure-safety/visu/hazard/haz41.pdf, p.2
v Noone, R. 2012, Safety is not first with DIY, 9 April 2012, http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sydney-news/safety-is-not-first-with-diy/story-e6freuzi-1226321659406
vi Sydney Morning Herald, 2012, What not to DIY with plumbing and electrical, http://m.smh.com.au/domain/diy/what-not-to-diy-with-plumbing-and-electrical-20120619-20ld9.html?page=3
vii Queensland government, Don't do your electrical work, http://www.justice.qld.gov.au/fair-and-safe-work/electrical-safety/for-householders-and-consumers/dontdiy
viii Western Australia Department of Commerce, 2011, Don't flush your holiday savings away, http://www.justice.qld.gov.au/fair-and-safe-work/electrical-safety/for-householders-and-consumers/dontdiy
ix ElocalPlumbersBlog, Clogged Sewer Drain: A common problem, http://www.elocalplumbers.com/blog/clogged-sewer-drain-1864
x Plumbing system in your home, http://media.wiley.com/product_data/excerpt/08/04709745/0470974508.pdf, p.316
xi Pointer, S. & Harrison, J., 2007, Electrical injury and death, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, http://www.nisu.flinders.edu.au/pubs/reports/2007/injcat99.pdf, p.1
xii Platinum Electricians, 2011, Six common electrical mistakes, http://www.platinumelectricians.com.au/blog/index.php/2011/06/24/common-electrical-mistakes/