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Safety in Home Storage Areas

Randy DeVaul

Posted on February 20, 2020 18:08

1 user

People store hazardous items in and around the home, creating hidden and common hazards. Follow these tips to reduce risks and live safe at home.

As we look at the storage areas around the house, a number of safety tips apply to each location. 

First, these areas should be well-ventilated. If you live in an older home, that may not be a problem. My attic or basement will never be 'air-tight.' For newer homes, allow for some airflow just to keep heat, radon, moisture, mold risks and vapors from stored items at safe and healthy levels.

Housekeeping is critical. Keeping these areas neat and 'navigable' reduce risks of fire, rodent and other wildlife infestations, as well as trip-and-fall hazards. Also, be sure to have good illumination so you can safely maneuver.

Depending on the season, heat exhaustion or hypothermia are risks so don’t plan an all-day search or clean-out during the dead of winter or the height of summer. Finally, make sure you have safe access with sturdy and non-cluttered stairs, handrails, and a light switch located where you start, not where you end up.

-The Basement

Do not store gasoline or other flammable contents – mineral spirits, paint thinners, etc – in the basement. Any vapors they generate can easily drift to the gas pilot light on the furnace or water heater, or spark at your electrical panel or fuse box.

As mentioned previously, check radon levels. You do not want to be breathing radon-filled air.

Place a fire extinguisher in the basement – just like the one in your kitchen. Remember, the extinguisher does not make you a professional firefighter; it is there to assist you in getting out of the house. For an extra ten bucks, spring for a smoke detector as well, and place it strategically in the ceiling area.

Moving storage items up and down the stairs, including the attic, means you need your stairs to be clear of clutter, and your storage items to not exceed your maximum lifting capabilities. It's a great idea to store things in boxes, but remember, that you still have to be capable of moving them at some point in time. Also remember that as you age, your lifting capabilities decrease, so you may have to split a load in one large box to two smaller boxes just to ensure you can safely move them.

-The Attic

Keep heavier boxed storage items in the basement. Usually the attic stairs are more narrow, less sturdy, and only wide enough to fit your body through the ceiling hole. Not a good place to try maneuvering awkward boxes.

If you are adding insulation or hooking up an exhaust vent, stay on the rafters, not the floor, or you could end up falling through it into your bedroom.

-The Storage Shed

Mowers, plastic gas cans, fertilizers, insecticides, aerosols, no windows and a closed door – got a match?

Finally, never use your shed as a storm cellar.

Use common sense when storing things, buy only what you need, and don’t bulk up on materials you can't use. Keep you, your family, your pets, and your neighborhood safe!

Randy DeVaul

Posted on February 20, 2020 18:08

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Editor’s note: This is the first of five articles on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points sponsored by PAR Technologies. ...

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