Be safety conscious this holiday season
Every December, hospital emergency rooms treat people for injuries related to holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees.
As the holidays approach, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges people to be on the lookout for potential dangers. Consider the following safety tips from the CPSC:
- When purchasing an artificial tree, choose one that's fire-resistant. This doesn't mean the tree is fireproof, but it does mean the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
- When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. It should be green. The needles should be hard to pull from the branches and shouldn't break when bent between your fingers. When tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles. The trunk base should be sticky with resin.
- When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators. Heated rooms dry out trees rapidly, so be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of high-traffic areas, and don't block doorways.
- Make sure indoor and outdoor lights have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory. This indicates they conform to safety standards.
- Check each set of lights, even new ones, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw away damaged sets.
- String no more than three standard-size sets of lights together.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and touching a branch could cause a shock.
- Fasten outdoor lights to firm supports, such as walls or trees, to prevent wind damage. Don't use nails or tacks to hold strings in place. Use only insulated staples, or run lights through hooks. These are available at hardware stores.
- Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. If left on, they could short out and start a fire.
- For added protection against shock, plug outdoor lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. A qualified electrician can install them permanently to household circuits.
- Use only noncombustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles made of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
- Take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable in homes with small children. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
- Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass "angel hair." Follow the directions on the container carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
- Be careful when using crystals, pellets or sticks that produce colored flames. They may contain heavy metals and other caustic agents that can be toxic if swallowed.
- Don't burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. You could start a flash fire.