Each renovation project can present its own unique hazards, from tripping on an uneven surface while replacing flooring, to falling in holes while digging for deck posts or pools, to electrocuting yourself by touching live wires.
“Homeowners need to appreciate the fact that their home is now a work zone,” says Damon Alcock, Chief Safety Services Officer with the Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association (NSCSA). “You need to ensure that family members, friends, and pets stay out of work zones in order to keep themselves and the work crew safe.”
Alcock recommends that pets are placed in a kennel – or boarded with friends or family members – during a renovation to keep them out of harm’s way. It’s ideal if you and your family can stay elsewhere, too.
“If staying in a hotel isn’t possible, then the homeowner and renovator should discuss what is a work zone within the home – and agree to keep out of that area, or make a plan to access it safely,” says Alcock. “If you need power and water in the evenings, make sure your contrac- tor has made it safe to do so.”
Alcock says it’s also important to advise your contractor about any health issues within the family that could be affected by the renovation, such as food allergies and respiratory issues. Giv-
ing them the head’s up about a severe peanut allergy will ensure workers don’t bring nut products into the home, and they can make sure to schedule work involving dust or fumes when someone with respiratory issues isn’t in the house.
It’s critical to hire a properly trained and certified contractor with the skills and knowledge to complete the project safely. But it’s also important for you and your family members to do your part – because when your home becomes a construction zone, it also becomes some- body’s workplace.
Jennifer Clarke, Relationship Manager for the Wholesale, Utility Resource and Infrastructure Integrated Service Team with the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia, says homeowners need to be engaged in the process, because we all have a role to play in workplace safety.
“If you see something that seems dangerous, say something – and ensure steps are taken to correct it,” says Clarke.
WCB data suggests that the top events leading to injury during a con- struction or renovation project are overexertion, falls from height, and bodily reaction. Sprains and strains are the most common injury, followed by fractures and dislocations, and cuts, lacerations, and punctures.
“Homeowners should insist on hiring companies that carry workers’ compensa- tion coverage, ask to see an up-to-date WCB Clearance Letter as proof of cover- age, and ensure they are in good stand- ing with WCB Nova Scotia,” says Clarke. “This ensures that the tradespeople and contractors who will be working in your home have access to assistance if they are hurt on the job.”
Clarke says building or transforming your home can be stressful, but the end result should be an enjoyable experience.
“If you eliminate existing hazards and take steps to keep workers safe in your home, you’ll have peace of mind in the work being carried out,” says Clarke. “The most important benefit to having a safe job site is that everyone comes home at the end of a hard day’s work.”