Falling off ladders and other holiday decorating mishaps

life or limbStay safe with these tips!

As Christmas approaches, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is reminding people to be safe when decorating the outside of their homes.

During November and December of 2012, the CPSC estimates that the nation’s emergency departments treated 15,000 injuries related to decorating, such as hanging lights, plugging cords into electrical sockets, and pulling plastic Santas up a shaky ladder.

“There are about 250 injuries a day during the holiday season,” said Robert Alder, acting chairman of the CPSC. “Adding safety to your checklist can keep a holiday tradition from becoming a holiday tragedy.”

The most frequently reported injuries in 2012 involved falls, lacerations and back sprains—many of which occurred when people climbed ladders to hang decorations and lights.

Light safety. Before starting to string lights around the house, trees and bushes, the CPSC recommends that you:

  • Choose only lights tested for safety and certified for outdoor use by Underwriters Laboratories, Intertek or the Canadian Standards Association. (Labels might use the full name or just the initials UL, ETL or CSA.)
  • Don’t use lights that have broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections.
  • Use appropriate extension cords. Some are only for indoor use; others may be labeled as OK for indoors and outdoors. Be sure the cord is in good condition, and plug it into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.

Ladder safety. Start by choosing the correct ladder. According to the CPSC, that means a ladder that extends at least 3 feet over the roofline or other working surface. Also:

  • Be sure the ladder is placed on level and firm ground. If you’re looking at uneven, soft ground, buy leg levelers at your local hardware or home improvement store.
  • Set up straight, single or extension ladders at about a 75-degree angle to the house or work surface.
  • Do not use a metal ladder if you’re working near power lines or with electrical equipment. Also, don’t let any ladder—wood, metal or fiberglass—come into contact with a live electrical wire.
  • Have someone hold the bottom of the ladder whenever you’re on it.

You can find much more information on how to stay safe, reduce stress or eat more healthfully during the holidays at the Holiday Health topic center.

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