Minimizing garage safety hazards

Feb 2, 2013 at 7:09 a.m. ET

One of the most dangerous areas in a home is the garage. This is a place often packed with flammable liquids, sharp and heavy objects, poisonous products and trip hazards — all threats that can be harmful, and even deadly, to adults, children and pets.


To minimize the safety threats in your garage, consider the following tips, provided by reputable safety experts.

Garage door hazards

Reggie Marston, president of Residential Equity Management Home Inspections in Washington, D.C., says, "I've inspected 10,000 homes over the previous 16 years and garages are one of the critical areas during my home inspections for safety issues." When he inspects a garage, he looks for garage door hazards that might cause the door to fall off its track and crush a person or pet. According to Marston:

  • "All nut, bolts and connectors should be tight and secure."
  • "Garage door wheels and tracks should be properly adjusted, operate smooth and be lubricated yearly."
  • "Garage doors should not squeak, squeal or grind excessively during operation."
  • "Garage doors should not be damaged, dented, rotted, broken, bent or bowed."

Flammable liquids

Debra Holtzman, a nationally-recognized child safety and health expert, shares a wealth of garage safety tips in her book The Safe Baby: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety and Healthy Living. In this book, Holtzman addresses the dangers of storing flammable liquids and offers the following advice.

"All flammable liquids such as gasoline, paint thinners and kerosene should be kept in properly labeled, tightly closed safety-approved containers. These products should be stored out of the reach of children, outside the house in a locked shed or detached garage. Keep them in a well-ventilated place away from any source of ignition and always take the containers outside when fueling power mowers and other equipment."

Poisonous products

Other safety hazards Holtzman addresses in her book include poisonous products commonly found in garages. She encourages homeowners to lock and store poisonous products out of a child's reach. In addition, she writes, "All poisons should have child-resistant caps. Keep all products in their original containers and never mix products."

According to Holtzman, common items that should be locked and stored away from a child's reach include:

  • pest-control products
  • weed killers and fertilizers
  • car-care products such as antifreeze, motor oil and windshield-washer solution
  • turpentine, paints and paint thinner
  • pool supplies
  • art and hobby supplies
  • glues and adhesives
  • charcoal lighters

Hazardous tools

A great resource for learning how to identify and minimize garage safety hazards is the website of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Although this website features tips that are primarily intended to protect pets, many of the tips are practical for keeping humans safe from garage dangers as well.

The following tip, featured on ASPCA's website, teaches homeowners to store their tools in a safe place to prevent injury to pets.

"Unattended garden tools may seem like no big deal, but rakes, tillers, hoes and trowels can be hazardous to pets and cause trauma to paws, noses or other parts of a curious pet's body. Rusty, sharp tools caked in dirt may also pose a risk for tetanus if they puncture skin. While cats don't appear to be as susceptible as dogs to tetanus, care should be taken by storing all unused tools in a safe area, not haphazardly strewn on the ground."

It's important to note that tools pose a threat to humans as well. Even if you don't own a pet, it's wise to store tools in a safe place.

More garage tips

Making the most of a two-car garage
How to maximize storage in your garage
Best paint colors for your garage