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Regardless of whether or not you are doing the project yourself or hiring a professional, being aware of some of the proper procedures for dealing with paint is always a good thing.

Even though paint is fairly user-friendly, you should exercise caution when working with it. The following are some basic guidelines for painting safely:

• Always work in a well-ventilated area. Open doors and windows, and always use exhaust fans. Also, keep your pets out of freshly painted rooms.

• If you cannot ventilate the area well enough to get rid of all fumes, wear a respirator that is approved for such use.

• Wear a dust mask and safety goggles when sanding drywall and paint to keep yourself from breathing in dust particles and to protect your eyes from small particles.

• Wear safety goggles, gloves, and a respirator when you are using chemical strippers, caustic cleaning compounds, or strong solvents. These can be very toxic fumes and you could become very ill without taking the proper steps to protect yourself.

• Wear chemical-resistant gloves that are appropriate to the type of stripper that is being used (see manufacturer’s instructions). Common latex gloves do not provide enough protection.

• It is best to use canvas drop cloths on the floor. Cloth stays in place and is not near as slippery as plastic.

• Always read and follow the instructions and safety precautions on the label of paint thinners and any other paint product. Do not assume you already know how to use the product. The hazards may be different from one product to another, and the ingredients in individual products often change over time. The label tells you what actions you should take to reduce hazards and the first aid measures to use.

• Do not use or store paint products near a flame or heat source. Avoid smoking while painting or using thinner. Near hot water heaters and furnaces are very dangerous locations to store these products.

• Never store paint products in containers that weren’t specifically designed for storing them and make sure the containers are closed properly.

• Inspect ladders well for sturdiness. Make sure that all four legs are resting squarely on the floor and that both cross braces are locked in place. Never stand on the top step or the utility shelf. Never lean away from a ladder; get off and move it if you cannot reach a spot easily. If using an extension ladder outside, make sure both legs are on level ground and firmly planted. Also, make sure the ladder is not standing at an angle that exceeds the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Plaster applying plaster on a new drywall installation.

• Make sure your ladder has slip-resistant feet and the surface that it is standing on is not slippery and is the appropriate size for the job needing to be done.

• If you are dealing with a large project requiring you to work at great heights you should rent or lease sturdy scaffolding. If your project is to this point, it is best to hire a professional.

• Clean up any mess promptly after painting and properly dispose of soiled rags. To eliminate any chance of spontaneous combustion, spread rags soaked with alkyd paint or thinner outdoors and let these dry all day before disposing of them at a toxic-waste dump. Do not leave rags to dry in areas accessible to children or pets.

By following the above tips, you can avoid serious injury, illness, or even death. Keep in mind that the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that more than 90,000 people receive emergency room treatment for ladder accidents each year so taking care of ladders alone will lower your risk of having a serious problem considerably.

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