Spring is perfect time to clean out garage

It seemed like winter would hold on forever in the South this year. April, however, brings our first real taste of spring and the warmer weather to come — weather that allows us to get caught up on some of those outside chores. One of them might just be cleaning out the garage.

Most of us don’t think of our garages as unsafe, but statistics from the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission reveal that thousands of injuries occur each year in them. So when you clean out your garage this year keep this list of safety tips at hand.

1. Garage doors: According to CPSC statistics, since 1982 about 60 children have lost their lives by being trapped under garage doors. When you clean your garage this year, check the automatic reverse function on your door. Most modern doors are fitted with a photoelectric beam that runs across the door opening approximately 6 inches above the floor. You can test this beam by simply closing the door and passing your foot through the beam. The door should reverse. If you have an older garage door opener, try closing the door on a roll of paper towels. When the towel roll has compressed to within approximately 1 inch of the floor the door should reverse. If neither of these functions works on your door, you should have it repaired by a qualified garage door contractor.

2. Hazardous chemicals: Garages tend to become a catch-all for everything that does not have a place in the house. We often store a number of different hazardous chemicals like gasoline, paint, antifreeze and pesticides in our garages. All hazardous chemicals should be stored on shelves out of the reach of children. Most of the containers for hazardous materials have child proof caps. Make sure to put the caps back on these containers after use. Since combustible liquids will inevitably be stored in the garage the likelihood of fire is increased. For this reason it is a good idea to install a smoke detector in the garage.

3. Tools: Many common house and garden tools have sharp edges or points that can be dangerous if they fall or are misused. When you clean your garage think about storing tools securely on the walls to help prevent accidental injuries. Ladders should always be stored in a horizontal position to decrease the chances of their falling and to discourage children from climbing on them.

4. Combustion appliances: Many garages contain a furnace, water heater or gas powered clothes dryer. If you read the label on a water heater it will tell you that, if it is in a location where combustible materials are stored, the pilot and flames should be a minimum of 18 inches above the floor. Though modern water heaters have a sealed combustion chamber, many older water heaters remain in use. The same logic holds true for other appliances. The pilot and flames on most furnaces are, by design, 18 inches or more above the floor, but gas clothes dryers are not. If either your water heater or gas clothes dryer are installed on the floor of your garage, you should have them raised to comply with the 18 inch rule.

5. Electrical: Since the late 1970s, building codes in most areas of the Southeast have required that electrical receptacles in garages be protected with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). In most cases these receptacles are easily recognizable by the two buttons on the receptacle that say "test" and "reset." Even if your house was constructed prior to this requirement, installation of GFCI receptacles in garages is recommended.

6. Carbon monoxide: Carbon monoxide gas is a by-product of combustion; it is tasteless, odorless and deadly. For this reason, never leave a car running in the garage, even with the door open. Never cook on a grill in the garage, and if your power happens to go out, never run a gas generator in the garage.

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