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 they do.
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 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 climb on the roof - 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 'HOLD UP, I PREFER TO HAVE MY TWO FEET FIRMLY PLANTED 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 ladders properly - 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 instructions.
- 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 should do.
- Clean up after yourself - 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.
For more information on our nation-wide electrical services that we provide please contact your local Laser Electrical member.