1. Ensure that you're completely familiar with your treadmill's owner's manual. While many people will throw these manuals in the trash and jump right on, it's important that you understand and know how to operate each and every safety mechanism your treadmill is equipped with. If you have children in the house, using lockout codes to keep them from using the treadmill will keep them safe. Learn how to use them.
2. Expect the unexpected. While most modern treadmills won't spool up to high speed right when they're turned on, some may. Before you get on, assume that the belt will start out quickly. Ensure that you keep one foot to the side of the belt when you first turn it on. This will allow you to quickly step off the treadmill if you find that the safety mechanism related to belt speed is malfunctioning.
3. When you're comfortable with your treadmill's use, make sure that you're not running using the handrails. The handrails should only be used to give yourself support when you're getting on the treadmill itself. They should not be held onto when you're running. Doing so can cause injury to your elbows and shoulders, particularly if the treadmill spins up to a high speed unexpectedly. Even if the belt is spinning at a normal speed, repeated use of the handrails can cause torsion damage to your joints.
4. Have your treadmill regularly inspected. If there's one way to avoid a very preventable injury, this is it. Hire an authorized treadmill inspector or repairman whenever your owner's manual recommends that your treadmill should be inspected. This could be at set time intervals, or a specific number of uses.
5. Avoid buying the cheapest of the cheap treadmills. Remember, you get what you pay for. If you buy the first thing you see on the sales floor because it's inexpensive, you may be buying something that won't hold up under the daily stress of use.
Follow these basic steps, and you'll be well on your way to staying safe on a treadmill. Treadmills can keep you in amazing shape, but the only way to do that is to keep yourself healthy and injury-free!