As tempting as it might be, leave electrical work to the professionals. Most maintenance is pretty simple – you do some basic cleaning once a
week, tighten a screw here and there when necessary, change a light bulb
occasionally or check the battery in your smoke alarm once every six months.
None of these things pose any real threat to life and limb, but it's
important to know when to draw the line, swallow your sense of DIY pride and call
a qualified tradesperson in.
Professional tradesmen aren't always cheap, but they're paid well for a
couple of very good reasons: not only are they trained to ensure that whatever
they're fixing is properly and completely repaired to the standards required by
law, but they're also trained on the sorts of hazards involved with the work
To spell it out, this includes avoiding things like getting burned,
crushed, impaled, mutilated, drowned or electrocuted.
Below are some tips that'll help you to decide what is
and isn't safe:
- Lighting and electrics– as a rule of thumb, about the most maintenance
you should ever attempt yourself on electrical gear is superficial
cleaning, changing light bulbs, cleaning the filter in your air
conditioner and switch things on and off at the switchbox. Anything else
requires a licensed electrician, who should provide an Electrical Safety
Certificate guaranteeing the work that's been done.
- Don't change your own plugs– Yes, you can buy spare Australian plugs for
your appliances at the local hardware store for a couple of bucks. No,
you're not supposed to change them yourself. Even if you've done it right,
any fault, damage or catastrophic fire that occurs thereafter will not be
covered by your insurance. Plugs must be changed by an electrical
contractor who's specifically trained to do so.
- Don't fiddle
with your plumbing
– Technically you're allowed to change your own
taps, but if you don't know what you're doing even that's not a good idea.
As well as risking flooding your house (and missing out on an insurance
claim), you also risk releasing gruesome-smelling and highly toxic sewer
gases into your home. By law, any plumbing connected to the mains
infrastructure must be dealt with by a licensed plumber.
- Leave gas to the
– Anything to do with gas – be it bottled gas, gas supplied
directly through the gas mains, or a gas heater or cooker – needs to be
regularly maintained and repaired by a licensed gasfitter. At the first
sign of a leak or malfunction you should immediately turn off your gas (if
you're able to safely do so) and contact the relevant authority in your
state or territory.
- Don't climb on
– That sense of vertigo and the rush of blood you get when you're
up high? Pay attention - that's your body's way of saying 'HAHA I PREFER
TO BE ON THE GROUND'. A fall from your roof, even if it is only a couple
of metres up, could very easily cause a spinal injury or death. Most
tradespeople are trained to work at heights, and won't do so unless the
proper safety measures are in place (roof anchors and so forth).
- Use tools and
– If you're using power tools, don't be careless.
Always follow the manufacturers' safety instructions to the letter;
there's nothing more horrifying than a power tool accident. Same goes with
ladders – use the right ladder for the right purpose, never use a broken
ladder, and always carefully follow the manufacturer's safety
- Be careful with
chemicals and cleaning agents
– These days, all types of cleaning products are
available in supermarkets, in pretty coloured bottles with grinning
cartoon characters and dazzling logos on them. These marketing tools can
easily give you a false sense of comfort, and disguise the fact that the
contents are normally pretty dangerous. Always read the safety advice on
cleaning products very carefully – if it says well ventilated, it means
well ventilated. If it says to use gloves, then that's absolutely what you
- Clean up after
– Got a bucket of bleach lying around? Working with a drill, nails
or a saw? If you're going off for lunch, make sure anything that might
pose even a remote risk to someone who's not paying attention is put well
out of harm's way. It only takes a second!
Home maintenance is generally a walk in the park, but as a rule of thumb
anything to do with gas, electricity, plumbing, working at heights or on
structural parts of your home is almost always better left to the experts.
It'll cost you to hire a qualified tradesperson, but you're paying as
much for peace of mind as you are for quality workmanship. Your money's always
better spent on basic maintenance than it is on hospital bills or major repairs
further down the track.
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