Deck the Halls Safely

DECEMBER 5, 2013
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Contact: (301) 504-7908

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates there were 15,000 injuries involving holiday decorating seen in emergency departments nationwide during November and December 2012.  This is the fourth consecutive year these estimates have increased. In each year since 2009, there have been an estimated 12,000 or more emergency department visits.  Falling from a ladder and stepping on broken ornaments may be funny in holiday movies but in real life, these and similar mishaps result in visits to the emergency room, or calls to fire departments, for thousands of consumers each year.

Here are some safety tips  from the CPSC  to help prevent decorating disasters this holiday season:

Ladders 

Heed the warning labels on ladders. Read Commission's OnSafety blog, “Ladder Safety 101,” for tips to prevent ladder falls this season.

Trees and Decorations

Buying a live tree? Check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, its needles are hard to pull from branches, and the needles 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.

Setting up a tree at home? Place it 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.

Buying an artificial tree? Look for the label: “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean that the tree will not catch fire, the label does indicate that the tree is more resistant to catching fire.

Decorating a tree in a home with small children? Take special care to avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. 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.

Candles

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.

Lights

Use lights that have been tested. 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.

Fireplaces

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 papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result from burning wrapping papers because wrappings can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

The CPSC is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical or mechanical hazard. CPSC's work to help ensure the safety of consumer products - such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters and household chemicals -– contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 40 years.

Click here to read the full CPSC release.

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