Safety in the Garage While Wrenching on your Vehicle
This article was written in collaboration with Charles McGregor, an advocate with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
When it comes to working in the garage, we should all take mindful action towards better health and overall preventative care. Although many cancers are genetic, hereditary, or cause-unknown, there are health threats in the garage that are preventable. Due to the nature of those who tinker, build, repair, and love spending time in their garage, exposure to some risk may be heightened.
When it comes to a garage set up, the gear you fill it with can turn any average storage space into that sharp and functional environment. For any Motorhead, D.I.Y.er, or vehicle enthusiast that enjoys wrenching around on their toys, most will tell you that the layout of their workspace, including the accessibility to tools, a streamlined design, and safety precautions all significantly improve the quality of any project. A safe job is always a successful one. Below are a few small changes that can result in significant gains for your garage and your overall health.
- Garage Flooring: When it comes to garage flooring, there are several options available and use cases to consider for your unique needs. From garage mats, tiles, or coatings, each of these additions can bring you an added layer of safety for your space. Slippery floors, project mess or debris, and weather conditions are all variables that can help you decide which floor finish fits the function of your garage best.
- Ventilation: Depending on the types of projects you plan to tackle in your garage, ventilation may be an important consideration while protecting your health. A garage is a haven for dust, chemicals, and gases. If you plan to have a garage that leans towards a mechanics workshop rather than a showroom, investing in professional-grade ventilation will be a great peace of mind.
- Storage: A disorganized space can quickly become dangerous. Not to mention the frustrations that arise while searching for a tool or a part you know you own yet cannot put your hands on. Storage is often one of the most overlooked pieces of garage equipment in terms of safety. Simple organizational tools can significantly improve the success of all your projects. Explore cabinets, wall, and overhead storage options that best fit your garage.
Air pollution in a garage is frequent and varied. From paint or gas fumes to smoggy clouds of dust, the types of jobs performed in these confined spaces often include power tools or chemicals and therefore create additional hazards. Depending on the type of particle pollution formed, overexposure to these conditions can lead to respiratory illnesses, both mild and severe.
- Particles: Sawdust and dirt can undoubtedly make you cough and complicate your breathing. More importantly, dust that comes from decaying automotive parts can present serious harm to your health if mishandled. Asbestos and lead are two known carcinogens that were popularly added across automobile parts before the ’80s. If you find yourself wrenching on classic cars, take extra precaution and educate yourself on where these toxins may be present. Asbestos was a common additive for heat resistance and was often included in gaskets, liners, and braking components. When asbestos fibers became disturbed and inhaled, they have been directly linked to aggressive cancer known as mesothelioma. Different levels of lead exposure can impact your nervous system, kidney, and brain health. Always wear protective gear over your eyes and mouth and be sure to research a specific make and model to mitigate any unknowing particle dust exposure.
- Chemicals & Fumes: Antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, carb cleaner, fuel additives, and any similar chemical-based products for cars have a wide range of formulas. Ingredients such as ethylene glycol and methanol can be toxic even if only a tiny bit is mistakenly swallowed. Pool supplies, cleaners, and insect killers are similarly dangerous to the lungs, skin, and throat. If you fear you have ingested or inhaled a toxin, contact poison control Before beginning any project or using a new product you can contact poison control for preventative care insights as well. Remember even the exhaust from cars, gasoline-powered engines, generators, or a small charcoal grill in a poorly-ventilated garage can result in a dangerous build-up of the silent killer known as carbon monoxide.
The safest way to the finish line in regards to any garage related project is through knowledge and preparedness. Preventing cancer when possible is always a smart idea, but there are countless health risks, large and small, that can be avoided with mindful acts.