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Fires and Falls: Avoid these holiday hazards

Wednesday, December 8th 2021, 9:47 am - The holiday season isn't without its risks.

As we march closer to the end of the year and through the holiday season, you've likely heard public service announcements from health experts about staying safe when hanging holiday lights. It can be a dangerous activity, especially when paired with ladders on uneven or icy surfaces.

That isn't the only thing to watch for.

Shoveling too much snow can also lead to injury -- whether it be from pulled muscles, slips and falls or, in a worst-case scenario, a heart attack.

And we aren't done yet. There's another, lesser-known holiday risk that doesn't get a lot of attention but can cause very real (and sometimes very expensive) accidents.

From slipping on the tree skirt to sustaining lacerations from broken ornaments, decorating the Christmas tree can be a significant source of injuries.

According to a recent poll by Value Penguin -- about 10 per cent of Americans admitted they were injured while decorating their tree this year, down from a high of 20 per cent in 2020.

Visit our Complete Guide to Winter 2022 for an in depth look at the Winter Forecast and tips to plan for everything ahead!

One of the biggest issues associated with the trees is the use of lights, which can become a fire hazard if left on overnight or while unattended.

About 70 per cent of participants in the Value Penguin poll said they've left their lights on overnight more than once.

The risk of an electrical fire increases with the age of the lights, with 10 per cent of respondents saying their lights are at least 7 years old.

Decoration-related fires can be costly. A 2020 report by the CBC says there has been 113 Christmas-related fires in B.C. over the past decade, causing more than $14.5 million in damage.

Other common tree-decorating injuries, according to this 2015 report, include falling while standing on a chair or ladder to reach the top of the tree, handling broken ornaments, and being injured while carrying or retrieving large boxes of decor.

PEXELS - christmas tree - element5 Digital File photo courtesy: Pexels.


Here are a few ways to reduce injury risk.

For a real Christmas tree

  • Choose a tree that's as fresh as possible. Dry trees are more likely to catch fire.
  • Keep your tree continuously hydrated and in a sturdy base to prevent it from toppling.
  • Dispose of your tree as soon as you are finished with it. Don't leave a dry tree hanging around on your property.

For a fake Christmas tree

  • Opt for a tree that is flame-retardant.
  • Don't use electric lights on a metal tree. This significantly ups the risk of electrical shock and fire.
  • Like a fake Christmas tree, artificial trees should be properly anchored to prevent toppling.

Other decorating tips

  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Do not leave Christmas lights on overnight or unattended.
  • When decorating your home, try not to do so when alone.
  • Store decorations in multiple small boxes, instead of one or two large boxes. Keep them in easy-to-reach places.
  • When using a chair or ladder, make sure it is on even ground. Try to have someone to 'spot' you.
  • Make sure garland, Christmas tree skirts, or any other type of decoration is out of the way so it can't be tripped on.
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