As a mom, there are so many areas of the house that are dangerous to our kids. It scares me, and I only sleep well at night because of the measures we've taken to keep our house safe.
Even if one of my little's wakes up in the middle of the night, I know that our electrical outlets are kid-proofed and that the chemicals, medications and alcohol are all locked up. The carbon monoxide detector and smoke detectors are tested and armed.
I recently realized that even with all of my obsession with safety, there is a huger area that I have missed: the garage.
So I did some research, had the husband help me install a new workbench and some locking cupboards.
Most of us adults grow up around tools. Even if it is a simple hammer or screwdriver, they are tools that we have been using our entire lives. We are cautious, we understand safety and we rarely get hurt.
Children change that. Children are inquisitive and learn by doing. While this is extremely healthy behavior, we need to approach it in a manner that keeps them safe. Every year, 12,000 children die from unintentional injuries.
We don’t want our garage or shop to be one of those hazardous areas.
Never underestimate your child’s inquisitiveness and mimicry. The stories of 3 year olds who find their dad’s cordless screw driver and proceed to unscrew all of the cabinet doors are numerous. While these stories end well, accidents can happen just as easily.
Here are some steps you can take to improve your home’s safety, and ensure that your shop is a place where safe and happy memories are made with your family.
This is the foundation of all of the other tips. If power tools are constantly available, then the rest of this list will be of no help.
As simplistic as it seems, the core of your children’s safety is going to revolve around locking doors, locking cabinets and shelves that are too high for small children to easily each.
Feel free to go crazy on this. Children are surprisingly observant. While you might think that they are not old enough to physically turn a handle, they constantly surprise with the ability to leverage step stools and other tools to gain access to the forbidden.
Think of it this way: if your child was left alone in the house, with no one to watch them, would it be possible for them to gain access to your shop? And then, to go a step further, if they did gain access to your shop, is everything dangerous locked away?
This two-step method of securing items provides that extra layer of security which goes a long ways towards preventing accidents.
Drowning is the number 1 cause of accidental death in children. You need to be obsessive at preventing it.
One of the things that is easy for us to overlook is that it only takes an inch of water to drown a child.
Accordingly, buckets of water – especially taller, 5 gallon buckets – can be especially dangerous. If a child gets flipped upside down in a 5 gallon bucket, they will be unable to rescue themselves. And if the bucket has more than 2 gallons of water in it, a child would not be able to knock the bucket over.
Buckets of water, paint and other chemicals can be one of the most deadly items in your shop.
Teach Tool Safety
As your child begins to gain motor skills, it can be very healthy to start teaching them how to use tools. Wrenches and screwdrivers are lightweight and offer the ability to work alongside the parent.
Just as you learned to work with tools, you can teach your child how to respect tools. Teach them the importance of using a tool for it’s designed purpose, let them help you oil and maintain tools, and discuss in-depth the danger of using a tool the wrong way.
The best way to learn is by doing. Even if all they are doing is screwing nuts onto bolts that you will later have to unscrew, you can help them learn the basics of working with their hands and the safety rules that go with it.
Before you hand them their first tool, be sure to get them child-sized safety goggles and hearing protection. If they are going to work in the shop, they need to respect the safety rules of the shop.
Demonstrate Safe Behavior
Most of us frequently work without wearing safety googles or hearing protection. And while we’ve gotten lucky so far, we can’t guarantee that our children will have the same results.
Children learn from our example. If we don’t wear our personal protective equipment (PPE) , then it is unlikely that they will.
By conscientiously forming the habit of always wearing our PPE, they, too, will develop the habit.
It might just save their life one day.
This goes along with the two-lock policy. If your child wanders into a room, they should never find an unattended power tool that is connected to power. It gets cumbersome, but when working on jobs, you should plug and unplug your tools with each cut.
It only takes a few seconds for a curious kid to escape from their caretaker and wander into the work area.
This is even more important with the proliferation of cordless tools. These tools are lightweight, easily accessed by children and always connected to power.
It can be a bad habit to force, and if you are doing a big task, it might be worth taking the children to a different location so you can leave the tools plugged in while you work.
The safety risks of leaving tools plugged in around kids definitely outweighs the speed benefits of leaving them plugged in.
In a shop where items stay installed and plugged in, you can install cut off switches that are 5 feet off the ground. That makes it easy for you to cut power to your tools without taking up too much of your time.
Clean Up Every Time
It’s a good habit, of course, but also teaches a strong safety precedent to your children.
Trips and falls are constantly one of the biggest risks in the household. Teaching your children to pickup the tools helps to underscore that these tools are more important than their toys.
Cleaning the worksite also helps you check for hazards. You are able to find potential problems that would have otherwise been missed.
Make Time For Safety
As you can tell, it takes a lot of extra time to keep things safe in an environment that has children. Plan your day accordingly. You’ll need more time to setup the worksite, more time to plug and unplug your tools and more time to clean up and sweep your job-site afterwards.
The trade-off is not only that the children are kept safer, you also help them install better habits.
As a small benefit, when your children are teenagers, they will use your tools properly and put them back when their done. The joy of always having your tools where they belong will more than reward you for all of the time you invested in teaching them the proper protocol for safely handling tools.
And while you will never see it, the very best reward is the hospital visits that never happen because you were able to keep them safe.