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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 August, 2005, 10:34 GMT 11:34 UK
A catalogue of DIY disasters
By Zoe Smeaton
BBC News Magazine

DIY tools
DIY tools can be deadly weapons
A man who survived shooting himself in the heart with a nail gun had a miraculous escape, but he joins a long list of accident-prone victims of DIY.

A two-inch nail in the heart would seem like a nail in the coffin, but surgeons managed to save the life of Nigel Kirk, who felt a pain after tripping on a towel and hearing the nail gun go off.

Staff at the hospital in Leicester said scar tissue from a previous illness saved his life, although one millimetre more would have been fatal.

"I count my blessings every day that I'm still alive," said Mr Kirk, 53.

This was an exceptional escape but that sort of accident is not uncommon, despite the television-inspired craze for DIY home improvements apparently on the wane.

70 people die each year as a result of DIY accidents
100,000 people per year visit hospital casualty departments after DIY injuries
40,000 people go to hospital every year following accidents involving ladders or stepladders
20,000 accidents are caused by knives and scalpels per year making these the most dangerous DIY tools
4,000 people fall victim each year to the seemingly harmless paint and paint pots

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) says more than 200,000 DIY enthusiasts turn up at hospital each year.

Although Mr Kirk's accident could have happened to the most experienced workman, RoSPA believes many people watch the makeover shows and then use equipment they are not capable of operating properly.

David Jenkins, product safety adviser at RoSPA, said: "Far too many DIYers think it's not macho to ask for help or even use protective equipment such as goggles."

Earlier this year a man was airlifted to hospital with a six-foot plank of wood nailed to his head. The man from South Wales, who asked to remain anonymous, had fallen off his ladder and surgeons could only operate to remove the wood once it had been cut to a less cumbersome size by fire-fighters.

A 25,000 fence

For other DIY amateurs it is not themselves they put at risk.

In a bizarre day near Swansea in 2001, involving two separate emergencies, Lyn Thomas, 29, severed a gas pipe whilst laying patio.

This sparked an evacuation of the street whilst engineers and firemen cut off the gas supply. Later that day his spade cracked a water main, flooding his and his neighbour's gardens.

Ladders increase the chances of a fall
In one of the more expensive DIY predicaments, David Brown, 40, from Cambridgeshire, was reported to have been charged over 25,000 by British Telecom after slicing through an underground cable while building a garden fence.

In 1999, at the height of the DIY craze, a man in Canvey Island, Essex, started a fire which left four families homeless as he burned paint off his home. After 60 firefighters tackled the blaze, he confessed: "I'm not a DIY expert."

People who know what they are doing are more likely to avoid injury or damage. And for the DIY-savvy men, there could be an added bonus.

In a poll of 2000 people by DIY accessory firm 3M, almost two thirds of women said that a man's attitude to home improvement reflected their approach to sex.

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