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Your garage is a bigger risk than you think: Here are 7 ways to keep it safe

What danger lurks in the average American garage?
What danger lurks in the average American garage?

How safe is your garage?

You might be surprised.

Most homeowners are unaware of the risks in their garages and the types of disasters that a poorly maintained one could cause. From trip-and-fall incidents, to fires, to poisonings, a long list of potential risks lurk in the average American garage, often without the homeowner even realizing it.

Here are some tips to help prevent common garage hazards in this heavily used but often overlooked area of a home.

#1 - Keep the garage door well maintained

Garage door hazards are easy to overlook, but they can cause serious and costly damage. A garage door spring that breaks can trap a car inside the garage, leading to the need for an emergency repair. A door that comes off its track can close unexpectedly or leave the home vulnerable by remaining stuck open. When inspecting the garage door, look for loose connectors like nuts and bolts, wheels that do not move smoothly, as well as noisy operation. All of these problems must be addressed to keep the home and its occupants safe.

Organized garage

#2 - Keep the garage well organized

Garage organization is more than just a convenience and a way to keep track of tools and belongings, especially when you consider the types of items left in a garage. Sharp tools, large, bulky tripping hazards and heavy machinery that can easily fall on someone are all common items in a garage.

Keeping these items organized means having a safe storage place, and this helps prevent accidents and injuries. When considering storage options, make sure hazardous tools that might be tempting to children are out of reach and properly locked up.

Lawn tractor

#3 - Allow lawn tractors to cool before storing

According to the National Fire Protection Association, approximately 6,600 residential fires originating in garages occurred from 2009 to 2011, causing 30 deaths and $457 million in property damage. The primary cause of residential garage fires is heat from powered equipment, a hot or smoldering object (e.g., cigarette) and heat from an open flame (e.g., wood stove or welding torch).

Your garage is a storage place for many items, including the lawn tractor, which is often quite hot after being used to mow the lawn. Most homeowners will simply pull their tractors into the garage and leave them there to cool, but this is dangerous. The hot engine can easily spark a fire that spreads to the rest of the home. Consider the number of combustible liquids in the garage, including the fuel to run the mower. The hot mower engine combined with these combustible liquids is a recipe for a house fire.

flammable liquids

#4 - Properly store flammable items

Fires need fuel, heat and oxygen to grow and burn. When storing combustibles in your garage, make sure you store them so that these three elements cannot combine.

Keep your combustibles away from heat sources, including heaters and heat vents. A dedicated storage cabinet or container with a lid or door for all of your combustibles is a great choice. Don't forget the items you might not think of that are prone to spontaneous combustion, like rags coated in oil or other combustible materials.

poisonous products

#5 - Lock up poisonous products

How much time do your kids spend playing in the front yard with the garage door open and accessible so they can get their bikes and other toys out? Now stop and think about how many poisons are in the garage.

Pest-control products, car-care chemicals, pool supplies, glues and even the lighter fluid for the grill can all be hazardous and potentially fatal. Don't just store these out of reach. Store them out of reach in a locked cabinet to ensure your children are safe.

gardening supplies

#6 - Stash garden supplies on a high shelf

A rake may seem innocent enough, but what happens when your child steps on it with a bare foot or your dog runs into it and cuts its paw? The rust, dirt and grime caked on your rake or tiller is dangerous in an open cut. Keep your unattended garden tools out of reach and off the floor.

Oil spill

#7 - Clean spills quickly

Oil and other fluids from vehicles on hard cement flooring can create a slip hazard. Falling on the cement floor can cause broken bones and head injuries. As much as 33% of garage-related injuries are due to falls. Prevent these problems by taking care of spills as soon as they happen.

The garage can be a very hazardous place, but by following these simple safety and organizational tips, you can protect your family and make your garage an asset rather than a risk.

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