Putting the ‘eye’ in DIY

Why, when it comes to home improvement, eye safety matters

Eye Care Essential campaign - DIY graphic

As a teenager I was an avid fan of the 1990s interior decorating make-over show Changing Rooms. Convinced that, once freed from the shackles of my parent’s décor choice, I would become something of a home improvement expert myself – rustling up MDF breakfast bars at the drop of a hat and skilfully hanging chandeliers created from old forks. An updated version of the show’s ‘Handy Andy’, but with more stylish overalls.

Fast forward 15 years and as a homeowner, I finally have the creative licence to drill, saw and hammer to my heart’s content. Unfortunately, years of blue-tacking posters to walls (and Tipp-Exing the resulting marks when I moved on) had not exactly provided me with a backlog of relevant experience, and my first attempt at picture hanging resulted in a large hole in the plaster, five bent nails and the frame still resolutely on the floor.

It was at this point that I decided to consult the experts – or at least do some Googling. Several YouTube videos later, none, sadly, fronted by Handy Andy, I had accrued some tips, but it wasn’t until I was watching my fifth tutorial that the importance of eye protection was mentioned.

From plaster dust to the more alarming prospect of wood splinters and metal filings, home improvements can be an eye health hazard, I discovered. Further searching revealed that the Eyecare Trust estimates that more than 30,000 eye injuries a year are related to DIY. A worrying statistic given that, unlike my botched wall, eyes can’t be easily patched up with a bit of Polyfilla and a positive attitude. 

Luckily, there are some easy steps to take to protect your eyes, and after consulting a real expert in the form of one of the AOP’s in-house optometrists, Farah Gatrad, I can pass on the following advice:

  • Always use safety glasses or goggles when undertaking DIY tasks, normal glasses will not provide adequate protection, and keep them on – no lifting them to inspect your work more closely
  • Opt for glasses or goggles that conform to European Standard BSEN 166, fit closely to your face and are made from polycarbonate, a stronger type of plastic
  • If your glasses or goggles become damaged, make sure to replace them
  • It’s a good idea to have an eye wash handy, this can be used to remove small debris such as dust if your eyes become irritated
  • Consult an eye care professional immediately for anything more serious than mild irritation. Your optometrist is well placed to assess the eye and provide advice or referral for more serious injuries
  • If you usually wear glasses for close tasks and undertake regular DIY, it might also be a good idea to speak to your optometrist or dispensing optician about prescription safety goggles – a more comfortable alternative to wearing safety items on top of your existing glasses.

As for me, having purchased my own safety glasses, I have now managed to hang five frames successfully. Yes, two of the pictures cover gaping holes but given that, unlike my Changing Rooms heroes, I have yet to make anyone cry with the use of brocade, I will rate this as a success.

Emily Campbell is Marketing and PR Officer at the Association of Optometrists.