Putting a Spotlight on Holiday Safety

On you mark, get set… it’s time to plan and decorate for the holidays!

But as you do, don’t forget about the safety considerations we highlight below. Why? Because there’s nothing worse than dealing with an injury or fire during the season of thanks and celebration. And unfortunately, the risks at work and at home are all too real this time of year.

Decorating injuries in November and December account for thousands of emergency room visits every year. Falls (34%), lacerations (11%) and back strains (10%) topped the list of decorating-related emergencies in 2012.1 While Christmas tree fires are relatively rare, they are also surprisingly dangerous. Between 2009 and 2011, an average of 200 tree-related fires per year caused more than $16 million in property loss.2 Moreover, on average, for every 31 home Christmas tree fires reported, one person died.3

So what can you do to ensure your employees, customers and family stay safe? Let’s start with the biggest topic, which is decorating safety.

Decorating Considerations
Lights. Trees. Candles. Ornaments. Lighted displays. All pieces that add beauty to the holiday season but can also be culprits for fires and injuries. To reduce the chance of fire, be sure to do the following:4

  • Before you start decorating, take a few minutes to make sure your smoke alarms are all working properly
  • Place candles at least three feet away from trees or other flammable decorations or objects
  • Properly dispose of light strings and other decor with cords that are fraying or pinched
  • Do not string together multiple extension cords
  • Do not run extension cords under rugs, carpeting or furniture
  • Before placing a decoration outside, make sure it is designed for outdoor use
  • Be sure to water your live Christmas tree daily 
  • Recycle trees promptly when the needles become dry and start falling in large numbers

As you put up decorations, also carefully consider whether they may present tripping or other types of hazards to employees, customers or family. 

Ladder Safety
Speaking of putting up decorations…there’s a good chance that you or your helpers will be using a ladder. When you do, remember these things.

Stop and think:5

  • Examine the ladder for damage before using it and note the maximum load capacity.
  • Carry the ladder properly (horizontally rather than vertically, and using team lift for heavier ladders).
  • Heed all manufacturer safety instructions about top steps.

Carefully consider placement:6

  • Avoid overhead hazards and electrical exposures.
  • Place the ladder on firm, level ground and make sure step ladder braces are fully extended and locked in place (extension or straight ladders should be placed at a 75-degree angle).

New Employee Safety
It’s common for many businesses to bring in extra help around the holidays. That’s why it’s also important to remember to educate seasonal or new employees about key workplace safety considerations as soon as possible. After all, injuries among new workers are often more common than among established employees.7

Holiday Party Safety
Finally, a quick word about holiday party safety considerations. Cooking is a leading cause of both residential and non-residential fires, so keep that in mind for office and home parties. Especially since the cooks are often dealing with more food and more distractions (and often appliances). Before a party starts, it’s also a good idea to take one last look around, both inside and out, to make sure no tripping or slipping hazards could spoil the fun for someone. 

Let the Holidays Begin!
By now, hopefully you understand that there’s a lot that can go wrong with holiday decorations and safety. But by taking just a few extra minutes to follow the tips outlined in this post, you can better ensure that you and yours have a safe and festive season. 

1,2 “Deck the Halls” Safely: CPSC Estimates More Than 15,000 Holiday Decorating Injuries During November and December. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, December 5, 2013. 
3 Infographic: “Put a Freeze on Winter Holiday Fires. U.S Fire Administration,”
4 Infographic: “Prevention: It’s the Gift that Keeps on Giving,” Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), November, 2015. 
5 Ladder Safety Tips. Travelers Indemnity Company, 2016. 
6 How to Set Up a Ladder. This Old House Ventures, 2016. 
7 Holiday Safety for Business. Travelers Indemnity Company, 2016. 

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