If you have been reading the news, you might have had a Christmas chuckle over the story of a Christmas lights display that became quite the prank. A man in Austin, Texas ran to the rescue after seeing what he thought was a man dangling from a roof, surrounded by Christmas lights and a ladder that had fallen over.
Turns out, it was just a recreation of a classic scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The family who owns the display has since put up a sign telling passersby that the “man” hanging from the roof is just a fake Clark Griswold, and that nobody needs to call 911.
The Good Samaritan in the story may sound a little naïve at first, but he actually has statistics on his side. How so? Over the 2015 holiday season alone, more than 14,000 people went to the hospital for decoration-related injuries. Stay safe this year by knowing which decorating dangers are most common and how you can prevent injuries.
Injuries from Falls and Ladder Issues
If you’ve seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, you know that there are many things that can go wrong with a ladder. Before you start hanging Christmas lights, remember that over 2,500 people go to the hospital each year after falling from a ladder or roof while decorating. Putting up lights can be exciting, but you should take the time to set up your ladder properly:
- Check weight requirements. If your ladder cannot hold you and the decorations that you are bringing to the roof, it might buckle underneath you and send you flying.
- Check for broken rungs. If you haven’t tested out your ladder recently, look at each of the rungs. A broken or flimsy rung can make you slip…which is something you don’t want to do while 20 feet in the air.
- Dry off all rungs. Any amount of dampness can cause you to slip. Take a dry towel to each of the rungs before you set the ladder up.
- Secure the bottom of the ladder. The ladder shouldn’t budge when you set it down on the ground. If you find the ladder leaning to one side, you might want to move it to the side or dig a little hole so the ladder is level.
Fires and Electrocutions
Decoration-related injuries don’t just affect excited dads. Fires and burn-related injuries are the third leading cause of death among children under the age of 14.
Holiday decorations add a lot of extra fire hazards around the house, including the Christmas tree. The combination of a dead tree, more extension cords than usual, and candles in the windows can be a disaster waiting to happen. Think about fire safety when you are planning the layout of your decorations:
- Opt for “fake” candles. The sight of candles in someone’s window can be lovely, but the sight of that candle burning the curtains is not. If you want the beautiful sight of candles in your windows this year, try fake candles that run on batteries. They still give the illusion of a beautifully-lit house – without any of the risk.
- Buy a fresh tree. The debate over real vs. artificial trees will go on until the end of time. If you are buying a real tree, check to make sure that it is fresh. A dry, brittle tree will be kindling for any nearby open flames. Fresh trees still may have sticky resin on the bottom, and their branches will be more flexible. If the tree you are looking at snaps quickly, you may want to look at a different option. Once you have a tree picked out, be sure to keep the tree stand filled with water.
- Look for a “fire resistant” artificial tree. If you are on Team Fake Tree, look at the label. Do you see the words “fire resistant?” These trees are least likely to catch on fire. Add this qualification to your list when shopping for artificial trees.
- Keep wrapping paper far from the fire. When you’re unwrapping presents, it can be tempting to dispose of your wrapping paper by chucking it into the fire. However, this can cause a flash fire and spend sparks out into the room where you are still unwrapping presents. Dispose of your wrapping paper by keeping a recycling bin nearby (but not near any open flames!).
Gifts and Unwanted Surprises
The holiday risks do not stop once the decorations are hung. Lacerations send more people to the hospital each year during the holidays than burns or falls.
How so? People cut themselves on sharp decorations or opening up gifts that contain sharp edges. Stay safe by keeping these hazards away from children and people who might not know what’s in their gift.
- Place sharp gifts in a box. A box is a great way to present a gift in a nice way without creating the risk of cutting your fingers on the gift itself. Don’t wrap gifts with sharp edges on their own.
- Open your child’s gifts. Your child may be excited about a new doll or toy that comes in plastic, but the excitement could lead to slip ups with knives or scissors. Keep these sharp objects in another room and take gifts out of the plastic after you are done opening all of them.
- Keep a lookout for product recalls. Your child’s Hanukkah or Christmas gift may be recalled for causing cuts, choking, or other injuries to children…but you probably wouldn’t be aware of this – unless you check gov for a list of defective products.
Stay safe this year and have a wonderful holiday season!
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.