Home Improvement Injuries: An ER Visit Analysis


Home improvement injuries to the fingers are the most common injury. With more people tackling home improvement projects, it's essential for anyone considering a project to learn basic safety first.

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UPDATED: 2022-05-17T14:25:02.967Z
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Home Improvement Tools

What You Should Know

  • There were 24,534 home improvement injuries requiring hospital admission in 2020
  • The neck was the least commonly injured body part, with only 1,875 injuries
  • Home improvement injuries increase during the warmer spring and summer months

While DIY home improvement seems like an easier and cheaper option than hiring a contractor, the reality is that any home improvement comes with bodily injury risks. No home improvement is entirely risk-free, whether it's dropping a can of paint on your toes or falling off a ladder.

Home improvement injuries are more common than one would think and result in thousands of emergency room visits every year. While these numbers ebb and flow, homeowners should not take home improvement projects lightly.

Those looking to make home improvement repairs should also have the best homeowners insurance if something in their DIY projects goes wrong.

Keep reading to learn how home improvement injuries have changed over time. We will also look at common injuries from home improvement and get expert advice and tips on home improvement.

Most Common Home Improvement Injuries

In order to examine home improvement injuries, our team of researchers collected data using the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS).

What are the most common injuries at home from improvement projects? The most common injuries resulting in emergency room visits range in severity, from amputation to dermatitis. Below, you can see the most common injuries caused by home improvement.

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Lacerations were the most common injury from home improvement projects that led people to the ER.

There were 127,486 visits for lacerations, compared to 1,800 for dermatitis and conjunctivitis.

Around 25,000 of these injuries required hospital stays, whereas the rest were treated and then discharged from the ER.

Most Commonly Injured Body Parts in Home Improvement Projects

Home improvement can injure a number of body parts from head to toe. Most commonly, injuries occurred to the finger. As most home improvement projects deal with dangers to fingers, whether hammering in a nail or using an electric saw, finger injuries (with hands coming in second for the most injuries) make sense as the most common injury.

So which body parts are most often injured? Take a look at the graphic below to see the full range of injuries.

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The least commonly injured body part was the neck, with only a total of 1,875 injuries. The second least commonly injured body part was the elbow, followed by the mouth and upper arm.

To avoid injuries while doing projects at home, make sure you know how to use tools properly before operating them. Additionally, make sure you are wearing the appropriate clothing, so nothing gets stuck in the equipment while you're using it.

Because injuries are so common, it's important to make sure you have good health insurance before you're injured during a home improvement project. While coverage may seem expensive, knowing how to find affordable health insurance can help home improvement enthusiasts stay safe from both high medical bills and high premiums. Often, it is simply a matter of shopping around and comparing rates.

Most Dangerous Tools For Home Projects

Your risk of being injured certainly depends partly on the type of tool being used. Although every home improvement comes with risks, you are less likely to be injured painting a wall than using a power saw.

Wondering what is the most common cause of injury in the home during home improvement projects? The graphic below shows which tools caused the most injuries to home improvement enthusiasts.

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Chains caused the least amount of injuries, resulting in only 2,848 ER visits. Manual workshop tools caused the most injuries, with 107,285 ER visits. Manual workshop tools include any tool that doesn't require power, from screwdrivers to wrenches.

When using any tool, it's important to study the manual and any training videos beforehand to avoid injuries. Leonard Ang, the CEO of iPropertyManagement.com, says, “YouTube is an incredible resource for home improvement projects. Great demonstration videos from amateurs and professionals will walk you through all the steps, highlight potential pitfalls, and point out specific safety concerns.”

Home Improvement Injuries Over Time

How have home improvement injuries changed over time? Are there more injuries in the summer or winter? Let’s take a look at month-by-month data on ER visits associated with home improvement injuries.

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The data you see above shows the percentage of injuries increased in the warmer spring and summer months, with the fewest percentage of injuries occurring in January.

Since COVID-19, many people have been tackling home improvement projects as they are spending more time at home. Has this resulted in an increase in ER visits? Take a look at the data below.

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Interestingly, the number of home improvement injuries decreased from 2019 to 2020. This could be due to a number of reasons, from people avoiding ERs due to COVID-19 and the increase in virtual appointments.

However, the percentage of home improvement projects actually increased, making up a larger number of ER injuries, even if the overall numbers were lower.

Home Improvement Insurance Tips and Safety Advice

In order to prepare anyone looking to start a home improvement project, we've collected advice from multiple experts. Our experts range from personal insurance lawyers to handyman provider CEOs. They have tips on everything from insurance to the safest at-home projects. Read on to see what advice they have for safely completing home improvements.

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“As an insurance lawyer, I have to say that before you start any home improvement projects, you want to make sure that your insurance will cover you if you get injured.

There are a lot of insurance companies who will consider making your own home improvements as a kind of reckless endangerment, and you could possibly find yourself uncovered in the event of an emergency.

No one plans to get injured while doing a home improvement project, but it is better to be prepared for any scenario.

Therefore, if you have to pay a premium before you start just to make sure that you're going to be covered, that's definitely going to be your best option, no matter how safe you try to be. There are a wide variety of home improvement projects that you can take on that aren't dangerous, such as painting or building furniture.

Still, if you're going to start tearing down walls and climbing on roofs, you have to understand that your insurance company will have a limit. If you choose to do something dangerous and get hurt, your insurance company will find any reason not to pay for your injuries. If you get a good insurance lawyer, it's possible that they might be able to sort some deal for you.

Be aware of your policy and exactly what it states because your insurance company will have it written what they do and do not accept as accidents. A lot of the time, willful endangerment puts you over that limit.”

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Anastasia Allmon is an attorney at FRPLegal.com.
Farris, Riley & Pitt, LLP is a group of personal injury attorneys.


Have you ever been injured doing home improvement?

"Yes, I have been injured while conducting home improvement projects. I was on the top rung of my ladder, trying to reach the corner of the wall to paint. Suddenly, the ladder gave way, and I fell on my back. For the next couple of minutes, there was only darkness."

Have you filed an insurance claim after a home improvement injury?

"Once I recovered, I filed an insurance claim. Luckily, I got sufficient coverage that allowed me to save enough money."

Have you hired an uninsured contractor to work in your home?

After my accident, I decided to stop DIY-ing and hired an uninsured contractor to finish the paint job I had started. Luckily, they suffered no injuries.

Would you recommend that people do their own home improvement if they have no experience?

"Speaking from my own experience, I wouldn't recommend homeowners to do their home improvement without any prior experience."

What can they do to prepare beforehand?

"They can prepare by watching YouTube tutorials of the particular task they are about to start. For instance, if their home improvement project involves cutting pieces of wood, they should watch a step-by-step guide to learn it before trying it out."

What are your top safety tips for people looking to do home improvement?

"Based on my previous experience, my number one tip would be to check your ladder for loose or broken joints. You will want to read the instruction manual before using any power tool and work in a room with good ventilation."

What are the most common home improvements that people try to do at home?

"The most common home DIY projects that people try at their home are interior and exterior painting, yard landscaping, and building things like bookshelves."

What home improvements are the most dangerous to complete for beginners?

"The most dangerous home improvements to complete at home for beginners are redoing your bathroom plumbing, fixing roof shingles, and replacing electrical panels.

Upgrading furniture with stencils, building trellis with planter boxes, and spray painting old picture frames are among the easiest home improvement projects for beginners to try."

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William Connelly is the founder of Lottie.org.
Lottie helps families search for and compare senior care homes.


What are the risks of home improvement projects?

“There are many risks associated with home improvement projects, but some of the most common include:

Injuries – Home improvement projects can be dangerous if done improperly or without proper safety equipment. Workers may be reaching up high or working on unstable surfaces, which can lead to falls and other injuries.

Property damage – Home improvement projects can also cause damage to property if done incorrectly. Tools may fly off and hit people or objects in the house, causing injury or damage. Alternatively, improper installation of new materials may cause water leaks, roofing problems, or foundation issues that need to be fixed.

Financial losses – Home improvement projects can also lead to financial losses if mistakes are made. For example, if a contractor does not properly install materials or fails to complete tasks

There can be many risks involved with any home improvement project, just make sure to take all safety measures possible.”

How can you stay safe while DIYing?

“DIY projects can be a fun way to improve your home, but they can also be dangerous if done incorrectly. Follow these safety tips to stay safe while DIYing:

Get the right tools. Make sure you have the right tools for the job and use them safely. Use appropriate safety gear, including gloves, a face shield, and eye protection.

Watch your step. Be aware of your surroundings while working on your project, and take steps to avoid falls. Use a ladder cautiously if necessary, and use caution when walking on ladders or scaffolding.

Know Your Limit. Don't try to do too much at once or go beyond your skill level. Stick to simple tasks until you are more confident in your abilities.

Spending a few extra minutes planning your project can save you money in the long run.”

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Lily Wili is the founder of Ever Wallpapers.
Her company sells wall murals and custom wallpapers.


“People often come to the experts for help with home improvements tasks after a previously poor experience with self-installation of their home security or other home projects - and a surprising number of those experiences have included an injury sustained during these instances.

A lot of people want to avoid hiring a contractor to install their home security system so that they can save money, so they will pull out their ladder and try to do it themselves. Unfortunately, whenever a ladder is involved, there is always a higher risk of injury due to a fall, especially when you don’t use a ladder or often do this installation.

I have talked to people that have broken a leg, foot, and even a hip because they fell off their ladder while installing a camera, and I have spoken with many homeowners who sustained bruises, cuts, and scrapes. I even once talked to someone who got scammed by a “contractor” she hired to install her cameras who fell while using her ladder.

While installing a home security system isn’t always a safety hazard, and the homeowner commonly does it, it can always be a good idea to have it professionally installed by the company (making sure that you verify the company and its credentials).

You may want to save money by doing it yourself, and you will probably avoid any delays in the process versus dealing with scheduling a professional. Still, I can guarantee that a hospital bill will cost you much more than paying a contractor to do it for it.”

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Kristen Bolig is the CEO of SecurityNerd.com.
Her site provides detailed reviews on various security systems.


“Even before I started my business, I have been in the lawn care industry for years — dating back to when I was a teenager. I used to mow my neighbors’ lawns, remove their weeds, and occasionally operate some pretty dangerous machinery to help with building projects.

In my younger days, I never took any safety courses or paid attention to safety instructions, and unfortunately, I did end up with a couple of injuries.

The worst injury I sustained was from a chainsaw kicking back at me and hitting my arm while cutting through wood. I had to get stitches, but it could have been a lot worse, and I am thankful today that the cut didn’t go any deeper than it did.

That was a wake-up call injury for me and gave me enough of a scare to realize that I needed to pay much more attention to my safety when working.

Now that I own a business centered on lawn care servicing, I make an extra effort to ensure that all of my employees and people I hire for contracting are extensively trained on safety measures. My company also has a solid insurance policy in place in case of an employee or contractor gets injured.

Lawn care and home improvement projects are commonly completed by many homeowners, which means that many homeowners often operate machinery that can cause serious injury. I would encourage anyone using machinery or doing DIY home improvement to pay close attention to the safety hazards and best practices of their items.”

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Jeremy Yamaguchi is the CEO of LawnLove.com.
His company provides lawn care listings and price quotes.


“There are many people who are injured every year while doing home improvement projects. Many of these injuries are avoidable if you take the proper precautions. Here are some ways you can minimize the risk while tackling DIY projects at home.

  • Wear safety goggles when using power tools. Even if you are only using the tool for a short time, particles can fly into your eyes and cause severe damage.
  • Read instructions before using any tool. If the tool is made for a specific job, follow the directions. If it's not, use your common sense and don't perform any task you're not trained to do. Never use any power tool without reading the safety manual first.
  • Wear safety shoes when doing any home improvement project. Even if you are walking around the floor, there is always a chance that something could slip and cause serious injury.

These actions may seem simple, but they will drastically minimize your chances of injuries.”

Have you ever been injured doing home improvement?

“Home improvement can often be dangerous, especially if you are not experienced. I have been injured a few times while doing home improvement projects. I tried to fix a pipe under the sink and cut my hand on the metal edge one time. Another time, I was using a power drill, and I accidentally hit my hand with the drill bit.”

Have you filed an insurance claim after a home improvement injury?

“In some cases, filing a claim may result in coverage for the damages incurred; in others, it may not. Some factors that often influence the decision include the type of policy purchased, the specific incident that occurred, and whether or not the policyholder was at fault.”

Have you hired an uninsured contractor to work in your home?

“No way. Generally speaking, though, hiring an uninsured contractor can be risky. You may be left responsible for any damages or injuries that occur as a result of the work.”

Would you recommend that people do their own home improvement if they have no experience?

“There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It depends on the specific project and the person's level of experience. People without any experience should probably not attempt a home improvement project independently.

Several risks are involved, including safety hazards, and it is often difficult to correctly assess and execute the necessary tasks. Hiring a professional contractor is frequently more expensive, but you may save money in the long run by avoiding injuries.”

What are your top safety tips for people looking to do home improvement?

“Many safety tips can be shared when it comes to home improvement. One of the most important is always being aware of your surroundings and what you are doing. Make sure to use caution when using any tool or working with any kind of material that may be dangerous.

Make it a priority always to read labels and follow directions. Be sure to have plenty of space to work in and keep bystanders away.”

What are the most common home improvements that people try to do at home?

“People attempt many home improvements, but some of the most common are painting, fixing the roof, and remodeling the kitchen or bathroom. Often these projects are undertaken to increase the home's value or make it more comfortable for living. However, they can often be difficult and time-consuming, so it is crucial to plan and budget for them carefully.”

What home improvements are the most dangerous to complete for beginners?

“Home improvement projects can be dangerous for beginners if they are not correctly educated on how to complete the project. Projects such as wiring and plumbing can be hazardous if not done correctly. Improperly installed wiring can lead to electrical fires, and improperly installed plumbing can lead to water damage in the home.”

What home improvements are the easiest?

“One easy way to improve your home is by adding insulation. Insulation helps keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Adding insulation is a relatively easy and safe project.

Another easy project is to paint your walls. Painting can brighten up a room and make it feel new. It is also a relatively easy project that can be done over a weekend.”

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Ben Green is a founder of GreenLeafAir.com.
Green Leaf Air is a handyman and HVAC service provider.


Have you ever been injured doing home improvement?

“I injured myself clearing the gutters at my parent's house. They had an old wooden ladder which I think has been around since I was a kid. One of the rungs snapped while I was on my way down the ladder, and I fell and sprained and bruised my ankle.”

What can they do to prepare beforehand? What are your top safety tips for people looking to do home improvement?

“My ladder fall could have easily been prevented by a quick check of all my tools before starting the job, so I'd recommend doing basic checks of all your tools before starting. You should also quickly assess the area and clear any trip hazards or other potentially dangerous items.

It's also a good idea to watch a few YouTube videos and make sure you are honest with yourself about your abilities.

Ask yourself what you are risking if you fail to complete the job correctly. Will you lose a few hours of your time and perhaps waste some materials? Or are serious injuries a possibility? Consider asking an experienced friend to help or hiring an insured contractor if it's the latter.”

Would you recommend that people do their own home improvement if they have no experience?

“As long as there is no chance of an injury, and people are comfortable with any lost time or money that may be incurred if something goes wrong - I'd say go for it!”

What home improvements are the easiest?

“Installing a water filter is an achievable home improvement for most people. If you've used a drill, a screwdriver, and a hammer before, you should already have most of the skills needed.

These days most manufacturers provide YouTube videos and customer support by telephone. The biggest problem you're likely to face is having valves and pipe connections that are not compatible which can be easily solved with a drive to the local hardware store to pick up the correct adapter.”

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Paul Lewin is the founder of HomeWaterResearch.com.
His company provides information on home water filters and testing.


"Home improvement injuries are more common than many people tend to think. When people think of injuries that happen at home, they think of common injuries like accidentally hitting your finger with a hammer. Still, other more severe injuries can occur when homeowners attempt improvement projects instead of hiring professionals.

Two of the more severe injuries from homeowner's DIY-ing projects are Electric shock and falls from ladders.

Electric shocks can range from a mild, acute jolt to a powerful surge that stops your heart. Electric shocks are prevalent during house renovations, and they mainly happen when circuit breakers and wiring are replaced without the power being switched off.

As previously noted, electrocution can also occur when working with electricity while standing on a metal ladder or when using malfunctioning power tools. When it comes to tackling electrical projects at home, it can be costly to hire a professionally licensed electrician. Still, an injury to yourself or even death will cost substantially more in the long run.

Most home repair projects require a ladder, and it might come as no surprise that ladders are a significant cause of fatalities. Homeowners who use ladders on a more consistent basis may quickly forget about the safety precautions they should take while using a ladder.

Fractures of the arms, hands, ankles, neck, and legs and possibly severe traumatic brain injury are the most common injuries caused by a ladder fall (TBI). Furthermore, utilizing a metal ladder to install or repair electrical equipment can put you at risk of electrocution and falling from a great height."

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Robin Antill is a senior partner of LeisureBuildings.com.
1st Choice Leisure Buildings is an internet retailer of garden buildings.


“Home improvement can be dangerous if not done right. That is why it is essential to make sure that when you hire a contractor to improve your home, you know if they are covered under worker's compensation.

If you have hired a contractor from a larger company, ask if the company has a workers' compensation policy. If the person you hired to do your home improvements is self-employed or an independent contractor, there is a chance these contractors may not have workers' compensation coverage.

In this case, you should check with the provider of your homeowner's insurance to see if that will cover the worker in the event they suffer an injury. In most cases, homeowners' insurance will cover you in the event of a situation like this, provided you as the homeowner are not found negligent.

For example, you would most likely not be covered by homeowners insurance if a contractor you hired to fix your upstairs bathroom injured themself going upstairs.

If you, as the homeowner, were aware, the stairs they used to access the upper floor were in disrepair and could cause injury. Still, you took no steps to warn the contractor or repair the stairs; your insurance may find you liable for damages and not cover the situation.

In the worst-case scenario, if a contractor was injured and you were found to be negligent as the property owner, you risk the potential of getting sued by the injured worker and have to pay out of pocket.”

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Sean Malloy is a managing partner at Malloy-Law.com.
Malloy Law Offices is a personal injury law firm.


Methodology: Researching Home Improvement Injury Statistics

In order to determine what home improvement injuries are the most prevalent, our team of researchers collected data from the NEISS. Using the query function, our researchers pulled data on injuries from home workshop equipment.

Multiple queries were conducted that looked at injury types, injury locations, gender, multiple dates, disposition, and age groups. To determine what percentage of injuries were from home workshop equipment in 2020, our researchers pulled the total number of injuries in 2020. Then, the number of injuries from home workshop equipment was then divided by the total number of injuries in 2020.

Pulling this data allowed our researchers to examine multiple patterns over time, from the most common tool that caused injuries to the number of injuries over time.

No matter what home repair job you are doing, use caution and make sure to pay a visit to the doctor if you are injured.

References:

  1. https://www.cpsc.gov/cgibin/NEISSQuery/home.aspx
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