Whether you’re attempting to DIY a small project over the weekend or you’re just trying to change a light bulb, injuries and accidents can happen. Protect yourself by following some basic guidelines for these 4 common home tools.


It’s easy to forget that ladders are tools. Falls from ladders can be serious and attributed to a range of issues — from using a ladder that’s in bad condition to wearing the wrong footwear. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the basics of ladder safety before attempting even the shortest climb.

  • Never use a ladder in high winds or stormy weather.
  • Stay off ladders if you don’t feel well  especially if you’re dizzy or have any balance issues.
  • Wear shoes with a clean and slip-resistant sole (like rubber).
  • Don’t use rickety ladders.
  • Always place ladders on level ground before use.
  • Never place a ladder in front of a closed door that can be opened toward the ladder.
  • Use a tool belt so your hands are free to climb.
  • Climb ladders slowly and avoid sudden movement. Try to maintain 3 points-of-contact at all time (meaning climbers should have either 2 hands and 1 foot, or 2 feet and 1 hand in contact with the ladder’s rungs or steps at all times).
  • Don’t lean over the side of a ladder to work — try to keep your stomach centered between the ladder’s side rails at all times.
  • Never try to move or shift a ladder while standing on it.

Electric power drills

Power drills, which may be corded or battery operated, can make short work of drilling and screwing. But they must be used with care. In general, the following practices are recommended:

  • Always operate electric power tools according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Wear work gloves to avoid burns from heat and friction.
  • Use safety goggles to protect your eyes from flying matter.
  • Pull back long hair and be careful of loose jewelry or baggy clothing that could get in the way of your work.
  • Electric tools must be plugged into a grounded receptacle. NEVER remove the third prong from the plug on an electric power tool.
  • Always make sure the chuck has been adequately tightened before drilling begins.
  • Never attempt to change the drill bit while the drill is on. Turn off the switch and remove the power cord from the power supply first.
  • Store tools in a dry location and refrain from using in damp or wet areas, unless the tool is designed specifically for this purpose.
  • Be mindful of cords, which can become trip hazards.

Electric sanders

Portable electric sanders (pad, disk, orbital, and belt to name a few) can be used for a variety of tasks around the home.

  • Always wear eye protection and a face mask or respirator to avoid breathing in dust and other particulates while working.
  • Make sure your workspace has adequate ventilation before beginning your work.
  • Wear proper hearing protection.
  • Pull back long hair and be careful of loose jewelry or baggy clothing that could get in the way of your work.
  • Always unplug the sander before changing any accessories.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for sanding paper and make sure you’re using the right size sander for the job.
  • Make sure to secure the item you’re sanding to avoid it being thrown.
  • Keep your body clear of moving parts while sanding.
  • Always make sure the sander power button is in the OFF position before plugging into a power supply. Same for when you’re done sanding.
  • Allow the tool to come to a complete stop before laying it down on any surface.

Extension cords

Misusing extension cords leads to over 3,000 home fires every year. Make sure you’re using yours correctly (hint: if you’re using a ton of them, it’s probably a sign that you need more wall outlets installed).

  • Never plug one extension cord into another.
  • Make sure extension cords are properly rated for their use.
  • Outdoor extension cords should be kept out of standing water and snow.
  • Never use a cracked, frayed, or otherwise damaged cord.
  • Never run an extension cord through a ceiling, wall, or doorway  this is a fire hazard.
  • Never nail or staple an extension cord to a wall or other surface.
  • Never remove the 3rd prong of an extension cord plug for use in a 2-prong socket.
  • Don’t use extension cords to power portable heaters or fans — this could lead the cords to overheat and catch fire.

Safe and smart | Home safety


about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.