It’s that time of year again where we dust off the big tupperware full of holiday decorations and try to passionately out decorate our neighbors with brighter lights and more plastic reindeer than one should ever own.
Unfortunately, the joy of holiday decorating also comes with a bit of danger and the numbers are continuing to rise.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates more than 15,000 injuries occurred during the months of November and December in 2012, as a result of holiday decorating. This marks the fourth year in a row these numbers have risen. Since 2009, there has been at least 12,000 or more injuries each holiday season that have led to emergency room visits.
Clark Griswold may have lit up the western hemisphere with his home and while his pain was our gain, it should also be a reminder that holiday decorating can be dangerous.
There are about 250 injuries a day during the holiday season. Adding safety to your checklist can keep a holiday tradition from becoming a holiday tragedy.
-Robert Adler, CPSC Acting Chairman
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The most frequent holiday decorating injury that landed folks in emergency rooms last year involved falls (34%), followed by lacerations (11%), and back strains (10%).
Fires are also a major concern during the holiday season. From 2009 through 2011, fire departments in the US had to respond to an average of 200 fires where a Christmas tree was the first item ignited. As a result, these incidents accounted for 10 deaths, 20 injuries and $16 million in property damage. Candle related fires during that same time span resulted in an estimated 70 deaths, 680 injuries and $308 million in property damage.
The CPSC recommends discarding holiday lights that have visible damage such as broken sockets and bare wires as well as watering Christmas trees often and to always put out a candle before leaving a room to help prevent fires during the holiday season.
Here are some other tips to keep you safe and in the holiday spirit this season:
Holiday Decorating Safety Tips
- Your ladder should extend at least three feet above the area you are hanging lights from.
- Place the ladder on firm, flat ground and have another person there to hold it.
- Check the weight limit of the ladder to ensure it can support you and the materials you’re working with.
- Never stand on the top level of the ladder!
- Ladders should be set at about a 75-degree angle.
- Don’t use a metal ladder near power lines or electrical equipment.
- One person at a time on the ladder.
- Stay in the center of the ladder at all times.
- Get a fresh tree. The needles should be green and hard to pull off. A fresh tree should have a sticky bottom where it was cut and when you tap it on the ground, it should not lose many needles.
- Setting up your tree. Never set up your tree next to a heat source. The heat will dry out your tree quickly, turning into a fire hazard within days. Make sure the tree is full of water all the time and avoid setting it up in heavy traffic areas.
- Artificial trees. Always buy “fire resistant” trees. This is not a guarantee that the tree will not catch on fire, but it does give you much better odds against it.
- Decorating the tree. Try to avoid sharp, heavy or delicate decorations. Don’t let children play with the trimmings or small parts that could be swallowed or inhaled. Avoid using decorations that could resemble food if you have small children.
- Test lights. Choose lights that have been tested by national recognized testing laboratory for safety. Examples of such laboratories are Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Check if your lights are rated for indoor use or outdoor use or both to ensure you are not using them in the wrong situation.
- Inspect each strand. Check each strand for any visible damage and throw out any that show damage and replace them with new ones.
- Use the right extension cords. Extension cords are rated differently. Make sure the one you use is rated for the purpose you intend to use it for. Remember, not all extension cords are rated to use outdoors.
- Keep in sight. Never leave a candle unattended. Blow them out before you leave the room.
- Put on solid foundation that’s heat-resistant. Make sure the candle is out of reach from children or pets and is on something solid that can’t be knocked over. Never light candles by the Christmas tree or other flammable decorations.
- Don’t burn the wrapping paper. It may seem convenient while opening presents next to the fire, but this could cause a flash fire.
- Easy on the “fire salts.” Fire salts may also seem like a good idea because of the cool effect they give off, but use them in moderation and keep out of reach from children. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if swallowed
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