The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year, but without a few safety precautions, they can turn into the most tragic time.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission states that during the holiday season of 2010, 13,000 Americans visited the emergency room for injuries related to holiday decorations. Preventable falls, burns, property loss, permanent disability and even death can be the end result of neglecting to keep an eye on safety when celebrating the season.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, every holiday season, thousands of individuals nationwide are treated for fall-related injuries. These include falls from ladders, roofs and furniture while retrieving boxes of decorations from storage, setting up decorations or placing stars atop trees.
Taking a fall from any height can result in a range of injuries, from benign bumps and bruises to fractures, brain injury or death. Luckily, fall-related accidents are preventable. Avoid using furniture for a step up. Always grab a designated step stool or ladder instead. A ladder may seem like a basic tool to use, but there are many right – and wrong – ways to use them.
Ensure that all ladders are in good repair by checking for loose or cracked rungs. Be sure to read the labeled guidelines on the ladders, and abide by the height and weight limits. Only set up ladders on flat, stable, non-slippery surfaces and away from doors that can open into the ladder. Have another person hold the bottom of the ladder while you maintain three points of contact on the ladder. Be sure to get down and move the ladder over rather than reaching to the side.
Fires are another common holiday hazard, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risks. Most holiday fires involve the tree, lights and/or candles.
A dry tree is one of the biggest risks. Be sure your live tree is fresh. It should have green needles that do not come off easily and a stump that is sticky with resin. Check water levels daily to prevent the tree from drying out. Keep all open flames far from the tree, including candles and fireplaces.
Light strings can pose another fire risk. Check that your boxes of new lights have passed inspection by a lab such as UL or ETL. For older lights you are reusing, inspect them each season. Look for cracks, loose bulbs and sockets, and exposed or frayed wires. Only use indoor or outdoor lights in their designated areas. Finally, hang outside light strings securely against a firm surface to avoid wind damage.
There are many additional potential hazards that lurk during the holiday season. Weighted stocking holders may be pulled down on little heads, even gift wrapping injuries have been documented. As with anything, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Also helpful is the use of common sense. Using all items – from scissors to staple guns – within their listed safety parameters, as well as for their intended use only, will help you avoid tempting fate and becoming another holiday injury statistic.
Sara Kennedy is a special education teacher in the Anchorage School District. She likes to swim, bike and run around Alaska, and camp and fish with her family. To reach Sara, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.