Improving Garage Safety: A Guide for Homeowners

Since 1974, 85 children have died or have suffered from permanent brain injury because of garage door openers. Between 2007 and 2009, 5% of all fires in one- and two-family homes started in the garage, and one in four homes with two-car garages are so full that they can’t fit a car. In other words, a typical garage is a dark and dangerous environment, full of chemicals, large pieces of equipment, household clutter and flammable items. Reducing risk and improving conditions in your garage can make your home safer for you and your children.

Let in Light

Poor lighting conditions are a common problem in garages, especially in garages with too much stuff. Improving lighting in the garage can help you avoid slips and falls and other injuries.

  • Remove objects blocking the light from your garage windows.
  • Clean garage windows on a regular basis.
  • Cut down any shrubbery outside the windows that block light.
  • Take down curtains on garage windows.
  • Install battery operated LED lights in cabinets and other dark corners.
  • Replace light bulbs as soon as they burn out.

Practice Safety With Flammable Liquids and Chemicals

Flammable liquids and household chemicals are dangerous for everyone. Fumes from chemicals can cause headaches, while other chemicals can be a fire hazard if stored in direct sunlight. Using best practices for storage and use of your chemicals can help you protect your garage and yourself.

  • Read the safety instructions on every new chemical that you introduce to your garage. Follow all manufacturer recommendations regarding safe storage and use of chemicals.
  • Keep all chemicals away from direct sunlight.
  • Take temperatures into consideration if your garage is un-insulated and unheated. Chemicals that must be stored in mild temperatures may not be appropriate for the garage.
  • Install an air vent if you use chemicals that produce hazardous fumes.
  • Install a utility sink in the garage that will enable you to wash hands and other surfaces that are exposed to chemicals.
  • Clean up all chemical spills on the floor of your garage before driving a vehicle over it or before allowing other people to access the garage.

Manage Clutter

Garages full of flammable papers, old clothing, cardboard boxes and other easy to burn items can easily become a fire trap that could lead to injuries, fatalities and destruction of your property. Managing your garage clutter is important for keeping your home and family safe.

  • Purge your clutter on an annual basis, either by holding a garage sale, throwing away old trash or by recycling what can be recycled.
  • Buy an organization system to keep the items in the garage properly put away.
  • Leave all walkways through the garage clear.
  • Never block off parts of the garage with boxes or clutter.
  • Clean the floors, tables and other parts of your garage on a regular basis to get rid of dust and old spills.

Store Tools Safely

Dangerous tools and other pieces of equipment can lead to accidents. Children are a main priority when it comes to proper tool storage, but even adults can be injured when encountering power tools.

  • Use a pin board to hang tools up and away from the floor.
  • If installing a pin board for tools and other heavy items, anchor the board to the wall to ensure that it will not fall down.
  • Leave covers on tools with sharp points.
  • Never leave tools lying unattended in the garage, even for a short while.
  • Unplug all power tools when they are in storage.

Maintain Your Garage Door

The automatic garage door is the heaviest moving piece in many households. Legislation that went into effect on January 1, 1993 requires all newly manufactured automatic garage doors to have safety features that can prevent a person from being crushed by a garage door. However, testing your garage door regularly and practicing basic garage door safety is important for ensuring that your garage door is not a danger to members of your household.

  • Test the auto reverse function on your automatic garage door by waving a stick beneath the door as it closes. If the door does not stop and reverse course, have it inspected by a professional.
  • Perform another test by leaving a brick in the path of the closing door. When the door reaches the brick, it should stop and reverse course. If it does not, call a professional.
  • Keep garage door clickers out of the reach of children.
  • Teach children not to open or close the garage door themselves.
  • Do not allow children to play in the garage doorway.
  • Have your automatic garage door tuned up by a repair professional on an annual basis.

Be Aware of Carbon Monoxide

Devices that burn fuel, like cars and furnaces, will emit carbon monoxide. Installing a carbon monoxide detector in your garage is one way that you can prevent carbon monoxide gas from harming members of your household.

  • Check the carbon monoxide detector’s batteries regularly.
  • Replace the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector on an annual basis.

Child Safety Considerations

The garage is full of dangers that can cause children to have serious injuries. Keeping very young children out of the garage is a good way to keep them safe. When older children are allowed to go in the garage, these tips will help them stay safe as well:

  • Never leave chemicals open an unattended in the garage.
  • Teach your children from a young age how to be safe in the garage.
  • Keep chemicals and dangerous equipment up and out of your child’s reach, or locked in a cabinet that cannot be accessed.

Take Note of Accidents When They Occur

Even if you are taking precautions, you may still have an accident or two in the garage. Learning from these incidents and taking action to prevent similar accidents in the future can help you stay safe. When accidents happen, put safety measures in place to prevent a repeat of the same incident. This will help you make your garage a safer place over time.