Decorating a home, business or office is always a fun way to get into the holiday spirit. However, one aspect that may not be considered – until it is too late – is the issue of safety and the potential for a serious injury.
It is estimated that more than 15,000 people end up at the ER every year in November and December because they are injured while decorating for the holidays.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International and the government have issued facts about holiday injuries related to decorating, the use of electrical components such as extension cords and lights and home fires started by fireplace fires or candles.
Holiday Decorating Injury Statistics
Candles cause many fires that could have easily been avoided. Many fires are started when candles are forgotten and not extinguished, or when they are knocked over during the festivities. The added melted wax creates an extreme danger when a candle burns down or is tipped over.
Rather than using traditional candles, consider flame-free candles. You can use your candles every year when they are flame-free, and there are a great number of options available now that could save you, your friends and family from turning a holiday party into a disaster that could lead to injuries or loss of life.
When choosing a natural holiday tree, it is important that it be as fresh as possible. You can discover if the tree is fresh by pulling on the needles. A fresh tree will not easily release needles. If you tap the tree on the ground, very few needles should fall. A fresh tree will also have pitch (or resin) at the base. Make sure to keep the tree watered.
If you are planning on using an artificial tree, choose wisely. It must be listed as “fire resistant,” or it could pose a danger. The fire-resistant qualities will allow the tree to burn slower should it catch fire, and it will be easier to extinguish. Always place any tree at a distance from any heat source.
Check your lights before you install them and make sure they are tagged with the UL name. This designation lets you know that the lights have been tested for safety.
Always use the lights as directed, with indoor lights only used inside and outdoor lights outside. Never add more than three strings of lights to any outlet. Turn off the lights when you go to bed rather than leaving them on – heat develops over time and can cause a house fire if circumstances are right.
If possible, buy LED lights. They are cooler and last longer.
Young children are fascinated by decorations. If your decorations are made of glass, you could endanger children who pull and break them, leading to cuts and lacerations. Never use “angel hair” when young children may be around the home. Artificial snow spray can be toxic, so apply the spray outside where no children are present. All tree ornaments and home decorations should be non-combustible or flame-resistant. Read carefully before you buy.
Nothing is cozier than a fire in the fireplace – until it is out of control. Fire salts that create multi-colored flames are toxic. They should be used with caution. Ensure your fireplace is venting properly. Have your chimney cleaned every year for safety. Don’t burn wrapping paper in the fire, as it will ignite quickly and could cause a chimney fire or other problem for you and your family.
Always have a fire screen in place, and watch carefully for sparks. If young children are running around, it is far better to avoid a fire at all. Tripping and falling in combination with fire can create a serious hazard.
You will need extension cords. How you place them is extremely important. Trips and falls are one of the most common types of holiday injuries. If you place your extension cords so that they do not cross walking areas, you can avoid the risk to your friends and family.
Never use indoor extension cords out of doors. Use the product as directed, and read the warnings carefully. Look for the independent testing lab certification (UL).
The American Ladder Institute has issued information about ladder use, and you can avoid a serious injury from a ladder fall by following the organization’s advice.
Ensure the ladder you are using is rated for the weight that you will place on it. Ladders must be rated to support a minimum of four times the weight of your body and the items you carry. If you are placing a ladder that is not self-supporting, ensure it is placed at a safe angle, with both legs firmly on the ground.
Only one person should climb the ladder at a time. Never get on a ladder after consuming alcohol or when young children are playing below. Wear non-slip shoes when climbing any ladder.