With spring weather on the horizon at last, I’m anxious to get the garage cleaned out. You might be thinking the same thing. If you have young children in the family, I hope you will think about garage safety at the same time. Lots of families use the driveway as a play area for kids who are riding bikes, coloring with sidewalk chalk, or pushing doll buggies or toy lawn mowers. During these play times, the garage door is usually open and kids may have access to the garage itself.
Generally speaking, a garage is not a safe place for young children. Always supervise children in and around the garage and take some basic steps to minimize hazards.
Let’s start with the garage door itself
Automatic garage doors should have a sensor that causes the door to reopen if something is under it. Test it regularly by putting a cardboard box under it and attempting to close the garage door. If the door does not go back up when it contacts the box, call your garage door repair company immediately. Never allow children to operate or play with the garage door opener, or to run under the door as it opens or closes. Make sure children are in sight when you are opening or closing the door. A child can dart out of nowhere and be hit by the door or become trapped under the door.
Many children have been injured and even killed when they run behind or crawl under a car that is being backed out of a garage or driveway. Because of their small stature, they cannot be seen by the driver, especially in high profile vehicles like vans, trucks and SUVs. Parents should establish a “cue” whenever they are ready to move a vehicle. A simple phrase like “eyes on the kids” alerts the other adult to watch the children until the car is safely moved.
And while we’re on the subject of cars
Never let children play in cars that are parked in the garage or driveway. This has the potential for accidental lock-ins and hyperthermia due to high heat inside a car. Never give children access to car trunks for the same reasons. Children playing in cars also are at risk for injuries from door slams and window entrapment. Keep car keys away from children. Young children are great imitators and have been known to start cars and put them in gear.
Never leave children in a running car in the garage or driveway, even if the garage door is open. Exhaust fumes are dangerous. There is also a risk of a child putting the car in gear.
Chemicals and toxic substances
When I looked around the garage, I was surprised at the number of these substances.
- Car cleaners
- Bug sprays and pesticides
- Grill lighter fluid
- Ice melt
- Motor oil
- Paint and paint thinner
Keep these items out of sight and out of reach, preferably in a locked cupboard. Never put a toxic substance in something other than the original container. I have known people who keep a little bit of extra motor oil, paint thinner or gasoline in a pop bottle or food jar to have on hand for quick clean up jobs. A child would never know the difference and may drink the substance. Gasoline should be stored in UL-approved metal containers out of children’s reach.
My garage contains things like hedge clippers, a camping ax and utility blades. All tools, big and small, should be kept out of children’s hands. Big items can be put in a storage cupboard or attached firmly to the garage walls. Small items can go in boxes and baskets that are kept out of children’s reach.
In addition to cleaning your garage this spring, I hope you will make the extra effort to make changes that will help kids have a safe and fun spring and summer.