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Garages and sheds often contain fire safety hazards.

Fuels and Solvents

Flammable liquids - petrol, two-stroke mixture, kerosene and turpentine – are often found in domestic workshops and garages.

Flammable liquids

Store flammable liquids such as petrol, kerosene, methylated spirits, paints and solvents well away from heat sources such as barbecues

Pool Chemicals

The chemicals used for chlorinating swimming pools are usually reactive oxidising agents that may react with other common garden shed materials to cause fire. Granular pool ‘chlorine’ (calcium hypochlorite) may start a fire if it comes into contact with fuels, oils, brake fluid or detergent. It reacts with acids to release the toxic gas chlorine, so must be stored separately from pool acid (hydrochloric acid).

Liquid pool ‘chlorine’ (sodium hypochlorite solution) is a corrosive liquid. It also reacts with acid to release chlorine and must be stored separately from pool ‘acid’. The different types of pool chemicals - granular pool ‘chlorine’, liquid pool ‘chlorine’ and pool chlorine tablets - should not be mixed or used together. Some combinations are incompatible and may cause fires or explosions.

These types of chemicals should be stored in a separate location to other fuels and chemicals found in sheds and garages. 

Garden Chemicals and Pesticides

All garden chemicals and pesticides should be stored in a secure place where children cannot gain access. A lockable cupboard or steel cabinet located above a child's reach is the best storage. These chemicals should be kept in their original containers which will have labels giving their correct name and the proper safety precautions. If the product needs to be diluted before use, make up sufficient for the day's activities. Any remaining material should be discarded unless it is to be kept in a properly-labelled container. Some garden chemicals may be flammable or reactive. Take care to ensure that incompatible materials are not stored together. Food and drink containers must never be used for the storage of garden chemicals or pesticides.

Oily Rags

Rags that have been used with drying oils, such as linseed oil, or oil-based paints may self-heat and spontaneously ignite if they are not properly dealt with after use. This is a problem only with ‘drying oils’, which include some vegetable oils (including some oils used in cooking) and animal oils. Linseed oil is the best-known example of a ‘drying oil’. Mineral oils, like white spirit, mineral turpentine or lubricating oil, are not prone to self-heating and will not ignite spontaneously. Rags used with oil-based paints or glazes, linseed oil or other drying oils should either be immersed in water or spread out in a safe place to dry immediately after use. If it is necessary to transport oil or paint-soaked rags, they should be carried in sealed metal containers.

Quick tips

  • Get rid of flammable rubbish, such as oily rags, and open containers of oil or solvents.
  • Never store chemicals, such as chlorine, where they can come into contact with other chemicals.
  • Petrol, kerosene and other flammable liquids must be kept in approved containers and clearly labelled.
  • Petroleum fuels and nitrogen fertilisers can combine in an explosive mixture - store well apart.
  • Do not use naked lights or smoke in the garage or workshop.
  • Always clean up shavings after woodwork.
  • Use properly installed electrical sockets for power tools. Avoid makeshift wiring extensions and double adaptors.
  • Where possible choose non-flammable paints, strippers, cleaners etc.
  • Fuel lawnmowers and other motors outdoors only.
  • Where electric welders are used, ensure the working area is kept clear of flammable materials, and the equipment is switched off and left safe after use.
  • Remember, sheds and garages are not a safe environment for children.