The holiday season has arrived, and as consumers decorate their homes, it is important that they take proper safety precautions to avoid fires and injuries. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), approximately 12,000 consumers must be treated each year in the United States due to holiday-related decorating accidents. Dried-out Christmas trees result in hundreds of fires and an average of 17 deaths and $13 million in property damage annually.
Fires due to candles are associated with 150 deaths each year and $385 million in property damage. Many of hazards are preventable — these are some safety tips that will help consumers avoid the dangers of holiday decorating.
- Make sure that when purchasing a live tree, that the tree is fresh, green, has needles that are difficult to pull away from the branches, and the needles do not break when bent. Also, the bottom of a fresh tree should be sticky due to the resin. Finally, the tree should not lose many needles if tapped against the ground.
- Make sure to place the tree far from any heat sources in your home, such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators.
- Make sure to monitor the water levels and keep the tree stand filled with water.
- Do not block doorways with the tree.
- If purchasing an artificial tree, make sure that it has a label that certifies that it is “Fire Resistant.”
- Keep trimmings with small parts out of reach of children who may be able to swallow small pieces.
- Take care to use lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as UL or ETL.
- Make sure each set of lights does not have any broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. If you find any damage, throw away the set.
- Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
- DO NOT use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
- Make sure that any extension cords used, are rated for the intended use.
- Check labels on lights if using outdoors, to assure that they have been certified for outdoor use.
- Plug outdoor lights into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.
- Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into older homes.
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples (not nails or tacks) to hold strings in place. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
- Make sure that all burning candles are within sight.
- Extinguish all candles before going to bed, leaving the room, or leaving the house.
- Keep candles on a stable heat-resistant surface where children and pets cannot reach them or knock them over.
- Keep candles away from items that can catch fire and burn easily.
- Place a screen around your fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting nearby flammable materials.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of an accident, contact an injury lawyer at Swartz & Swartz, P.C. Call our Boston, Massachusetts office at (617) 742-1900, or toll-free at 1-800-545-3732.
By James A. Swartz of Swartz & Swartz P.C. – Permalink