Working on your Corvette in your garage should be a fun and relaxing experience; something you look forward to and enjoy doing. But nothing puts a dampener on a good time like getting injured; that's no fun at all. So that's what I'm going to focus on this month: how not to get hurt working in your garage, and what you should have within easy reach if you do.
The best source of safety in your garage isn't something you can buy or stack on your shelves-it's prevention. There's no substitute for being careful and eliminating anything that may be a threat to your safety in the garage. There's an old saying about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure, and that's something you can take to the bank.
The two biggest factors responsible for accidents and injuries in the garage are carelessness and distractions. Carelessness can rear its ugly head in many ways. Not picking up that air hose that's lying on the garage floor, leaving a tool or piece of equipment where it can be tripped over, piling stuff up rather than stowing it properly-these are all examples of carelessness that can cause accidents. The important point is that these hazards can be avoided and eliminated by taking the time to be careful rather than careless. Carelessness is a first-person hazard. This means that if you left the hose on the floor or created the hazard, you are the one responsible. But you don't get off that lightly. If someone else created the hazard, and you don't do anything to correct and eliminate it, you're still to blame.
Distractions, on the other hand, can have shared causes and/or causers. For example, you may be involved working on something, and the cell phone rings, which you answer and still continue to work-now there's a distraction. Similarly, you can be immersed and focused on what you're doing when the kids come running in chasing the dog or some other such distraction pulls your attention away from the task at hand. Sometimes the distraction was caused even before you entered the garage-maybe you had an argument with your spouse, and you proceeded to work with it still on your mind. That's a distraction, too, because it's keeping you from totally focusing on what you're doing. And lack of focus leads to accidents.
Now I don't want to come off sounding holier than thou, because that is certainly not the case. I've had more than my fair share of cuts, scrapes, bruises, blackened fingernails, and burns working on my various Corvettes and other vehicles over the years. Minor injuries are inevitable anytime you work with tools and materials that are harder than your own flesh and bone. But it's important to minimize their occurrence as much as possible and not invite trouble through carelessness or distractions. Injuries don't need any help or encouragement-they'll happen anyway.
That being said, there are certain things you should have in your garage to deal with accidents if and when they occur. Every garage needs to have at least one fully-charged fire extinguisher. Fire can be absolutely devastating, especially in the garage where chemicals and accelerants can help it to spread even quicker. Mount the extinguisher on a quick-release bracket that can be reached instantly and be sure there are no obstructions blocking the path to the extinguisher. And make sure the extinguisher is fully charged and in proper working order. The extinguisher should be inspected and, if necessary, recharged on a yearly basis.
Fire extinguishers have different ratings according to the types of fires they can be successfully used on: Class A-trash, wood, paper; Class B-liquids; Class C-electrical equipment. Since all these materials are typically found in the garage, and a fire can involve some or all of them, the ideal fire extinguisher to have in your garage is a general-purpose unit that can handle all three classes.
And do not skimp when purchasing a fire extinguisher. Your very life could depend on it, as well as that of your family. And that's not to mention how you will instantly become the most unpopular person on earth with your cohabitants and your neighbors if you burn the house down.
The next must-have item is a well-stocked first aid kit. At the very minimum, the kit should have adhesive bandages in a couple of sizes big enough to accommodate cuts and scrapes, some antibiotic ointment, disinfectant spray, sterile gauze pads, and adhesive tape. It's even better if you have some additional items such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, or some other analgesic for relieving pain, eye-wash, and a cold-pack for reducing swelling. Tweezers, scissors, burn cream, and sterile disposable gloves are also good items to have in the first aid kit. You'll usually find these latter items in the kits intended for industrial and corporate use. These kits can usually be mounted on the wall; next to the fire extinguisher is an ideal location in your garage.
Gloves will help keep you from getting cuts and scrapes, and also keep you from looking like a "grease monkey." Mechanics' gloves come in a variety of styles, and they're great for providing cushioning and protection for your hands when "wrenching" around. They offer a lot of tactile response (in plain English, you can still feel what you're touching), and they're good for doing heavy work (e.g., using wrenches, ratchets, sockets, air tools, hammers, and so forth).
Like many folks, I'm allergic to latex, so I prefer nitrile gloves for working on many projects in the garage. They come in various styles and thicknesses, and they're ideal when you have to be able to feel what you're doing. While they don't offer too much protection, they will keep you from getting "grease monkey" hands and ruining your manicure. Sold in boxes of 100, nitrile gloves are inexpensive and disposable, so you can toss them into the trash and use a fresh pair next time.
Protecting your eyes from injury is one of the most important things you can do when you're working in the garage. Think about it, you won't be doing any more work on your Corvette if you can't see what you're doing, right? Be sure to protect your eyes so you can continue to play in the garage. You have your choice of full-face shields, safety glasses, goggles, and even magnifier glasses, so you have lots of options for eye protection that's right for you and the task at hand.