Most of us have seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and laughed when the Griswald’s Christmas tree went up in flames, or when Clark fell off the roof. Sure, in the movies it’s funny, but in reality this may be the season to be jolly, but it’s also the season for emergency room visits to surge due to holiday decorating injuries. More than 15,000 individuals “decking the halls” found themselves in need of emergency care last year according to estimates by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a number that has steadily risen since 2009.
250 people are injured every day during the holiday season. Falls are the most common decorating disaster accounting for 34 percent, with lacerations and back strains coming in second and third at 11 and 10 percent respectively.
Fires are a dangerous and deadly hazard. Between 2009 and 2011, 200 Christmas tree fires occurred injuring 20 people and killing 10. Candle-related fires during the same years injured 680 and killed 70.
To stay out of the ER, or worse yet, the grave, this holiday season, keep these safety tips in mind while decorating:
1. Always heed the warning labels on ladders. Visit CPSC’s blog dedicated to ladder safety for tips on how to prevent ladder falls this season.
Trees and Decorations
1. If you buy a live tree, check for freshness. The fresher the tree the better and longer it will last. Make sure it is green, and that the needles are hard to pull from the branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
2. Place your tree away from heat sources. Trees should not be placed near fireplaces, vents, or radiators. Monitor water levels daily, and keep the tree stand filled with water. Watch this video posted by the National Fire Protection Association that shows the difference between how fast a fire goes up in flames that been regularly watered vs. not watered.
3. If you buy an artificial tree make sure it’s labeled “Fire Resistant.” It’s doesn’t mean the tree will not catch fire, but it does mean the tree is more resistant to catching fire.
4. Decorating with small children? Avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to reach for and swallow them.
1. Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.
2. Keep candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface. Place candles where kids and pets cannot reach them or knock them over. Lit candles should be placed away from items that can catch fire, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture.
1. Only use lights that have been tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. On decorative lights available in stores, UL’s red holographic label signifies that the product meets safety requirements for indoor and outdoor use. UL’s green holographic label signifies that the product meets requirements for indoor use only.
2. Check each set of lights. Examine new and old lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets, and do not use electric lights on a metallic tree.
3. Check each extension cord. Make sure extension cords are rated for the intended use and are in good condition.
4. Check outdoor lights for labels. Look for labels indicating that the lights have been certified for outdoor use, and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.
2. Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result from burning wrapping papers because wrappings can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
Another thing to keep in mind when you’re “decking the halls” is to ensure that your decorations aren’t endangering your guests. You don’t want your holiday visitors hurt on your property and filing a premises liability claim.
What is premises liability? Basically, premises liability law refers to the legal principles that hold landowners and tenants responsible when someone enters onto their property and gets hurt due to a dangerous condition.
There’s always the chance of getting injured on someone’s property, but additional hazardous circumstances develop during the holiday season, including lit candles, outside displays, indoor and outdoor lights, and trees.
A few ways you can keep your guests from injury during the holidays is to keep your walkways and paths clear from obstructions that can trip them up. If it snows you’ll want to shovel any snow or ice from your walkway and driveway. If you are using illuminated displays, keep wires, cables and extension cords out of walking paths. Stabilize decorations that are displayed atop roofs, in trees, or otherwise above ground so they don’t come loose and fall.
Just as someone has the right to file a claim against you if they’re injured on your property, if you get hurt from a holiday decoration disaster on someone else’s property and you’re not at fault, you may want to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney or even a products liability attorney near you. MBC would be happy to review such a claim at no cost.
Deck the halls, and happy holidays, and don’t pull a Griswald from your friends at MBC.