I can't count the number of times in the last month that I've bumped one of my knees into something in the garage.
One reason is that I have one too many tablesaws -- mine and the one I tested in the autumn and haven't had the time to stuff into a crate and return it to the manufacturer.
That's the trouble with being a professional tool-tester. The tests are just a small part of the job. Storing the tools till they can be tested and returning them to the manufacturer take up most of my time.
The clutter that has begun to overwhelm my well-designed garage workshop makes it virtually impossible to work in it.
My knees can attest to the fact that the situation is painful and, at times, even dangerous. It isn't what I had in mind when I designed and built the shop, but it has come to pass nonetheless.
That fact that I am concerned about the garage situation sets me apart from most American homeowners according to a survey by the Home Safety Council, a nonprofit group that promotes safety around the house.
The survey shows that nearly 60 percent of all garage users are unconcerned about safety hazards within their garage, even though one in three people responding to the survey reports that a garage-related injury has occurred in their home.
More than 75 percent of reported garage-related injuries result from either slipping and falling or stepping on an object left on the garage floor, two hazards that could be avoided with adequate lighting and proper organization.
The majority of garage users (60 percent) report that their garage is unorganized and additionally one out of three American garages does not have sufficient lighting.
Slips and falls are the most recognized garage safety issue, with 24 percent of respondents reporting them. The council said its research showed that slips and falls are the leading cause of unintentional home injury and related death in and around the home.
Additional injury worries include stepping on items, falling objects and garage fires.
To reduce the risk of falls and other garage-related injuries, the council suggests the following:
- Properly secure shelving units to the wall, making sure they are not overloaded.
- Store heavier items closest to the ground.
- Use a sturdy step stool with handrails when climbing is necessary.
- Organize all items in designated, easy-to-reach places.
- Keep floors and steps clear of clutter and immediately clean up grease and spills.
- Keep children's toys in one area and within their reach to prevent kids from exploring potentially dangerous areas.
- Supervise young children when they are in the garage.
- Use bright lights at the top and bottom of stairs.
- Make sure your garage is well-lighted. Use the maximum safe wattage in light fixtures. (The maximum wattage is typically posted inside light fixtures.)
- Install secure handrails or banisters on both sides that extend the entire length of the stairs.
- Keep the garage free of dust, webs and trash, which can interfere with the electrical system.
- When purchasing or remodeling a home with a garage, ensure that the door is equipped with an auto-reverse feature. Test the garage door safety device by placing a paper towel roll beneath the door as it closes. If the door opens quickly, then your family and pets will be protected from bodily entrapment.
- Most families use the garage for storage. Many homeowners tend to keep potentially dangerous materials in the garage -- gasoline for the lawnmower or snowthrower, for example -- that require careful handling and proper storage to prevent injury.
- The survey showed that 94 percent of homeowners store at least one potentially dangerous item in their garage. Items most frequently stored in the garage include: tools/sharp objects (82 percent); lawn-care products (64 percent); automotive fluids (60 percent); paint and paint thinner (50 percent); cleaning products (50 percent) and gasoline/propane (42 percent).
- Make sure poisonous products such as pesticides, automotive fluids, lighter fluid, paint thinner, antifreeze and turpentine have child-resistant caps, are clearly labeled and are stored in a locked cabinet out of sight and reach of children.
- Store shovels, rakes, lawn chairs, bikes and other sharp and large objects on the wall and out of high traffic areas.
- Keep pool chemicals according to the manufacturers' directions to prevent combustion and potential poisoning exposures.
- Store gasoline in small quantities only and in a proper, tightly sealed container labeled “gasoline.”
- Do not keep gasoline in a garage with an appliance that contains a pilot light.
And never have too many tablesaws.