November and December are Prime Season for Holiday Decorating Injuries as ER Visits Top 15,000 By Tod Aronovitz | 12/24/13 | 0 Comment

It seems innocuous enough—decorating the house for the holidays, or taking down the decorations—but the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has found that decking the halls can be a hazardous undertaking if safety isn’t priority.  The CPSC estimates more than 15,000 people were seen in emergency rooms nationwide in November and December of 2012 for injuries sustained while decorating for the season. It is the fourth consecutive year that the number of holiday decorating injuries have risen, according to the agency.

“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,” CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler explained in a news release. “Keep Christmas trees watered well, don’t leave candles unattended, and use caution whenever you are on a ladder.”

The agency reported that falls (34%), lacerations (11%) and back strains (10%) were the most common holiday decorating accidents seen in emergency departments in 2012. In addition, from 2009 through 2011, fire departments nationwide responded to an average of 200 fires in which the Christmas tree was the first item ignited. These incidents resulted in 10 deaths, 20 injuries and $16 million in property loss, the CPSC reported. Candle-related fires from 2009 through 2011 have resulted in an estimated 70 deaths, 680 injuries and $308 million in property loss.

Before adorning your gathering space, keep the following safety tips in mind this holiday season:

  • Heed the warning labels on ladders. Read CPSC’s OnSafety blog, “Ladder Safety 101,” for tips to prevent ladder falls this season.
  • Keep Christmas trees away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators. Because heated rooms rapidly dry out live trees, be sure to monitor water levels daily, and keep the tree stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of foot traffic, and do not block doorways with the tree.
  • Make sure an artificial tree is “fire resistant.” Although this label does not mean that the tree will not catch fire, the label does indicate that the tree will be more resistant to burning up.
  • Consider small children when decorating a tree Take special care to avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations if children will be near your tree. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children, who could swallow or inhale small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to reach for and swallow them.
  • Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.
  •  Keep candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface. Place candles where kids and pets cannot reach them or knock them over. Lighted candles should be placed away from items that can catch fire, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture.
  • Use lights that are certified. Select lights tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Lights for both indoor and outdoor use must meet strict requirements that testing laboratories are able to verify. 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.
  • 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.
  • Check each extension cord. Make sure each extension cord is rated for the intended use and is in good condition. Do not use cords with cuts or signs of fraying.
  • 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.
  • Use care with “fire salts.” Fire salts produce colored flames when thrown onto wood fires. Fire salts contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting, if swallowed. Keep fire salts away from children.
  • Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. A flash fire may result because wrappings can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

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