Christmas is probably the most anticipated holiday of the year, even surpassing the
beginning of summer vacation for many people. Christmas means trees, shopping, being with family, opening presents, office parties, and traveling to visit friends and family. It is also a time when many injuries occur because of carelessness and heavy drinking in some instances.
If you want to avoid personal injuries during the Christmas season, here are some safety tips to follow:
1. Avoid Christmas Fires and Related Injuries
Fires involving Christmas trees are rare, but when they do occur, they can be deadly. There is an average of 210 fires involving Christmas trees per year according to the National Fire Protection Association with 6 associated deaths and 16 injuries. Despite the rarity, take the necessary precautions, which include:
- Buy a fresh tree that is still green
- Water it daily to keep it fresh
- If pine needles start falling off, discard it
- Keep the tree at least 3 feet away from any heat source including candles or heaters
- Do not have the tree block an exit in case of a fire
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby
- Do not overload the tree with lighted bulbs
- Turn off all tree lights when going to bed or when leaving the house
- Use only LED lights that are cooler and more energy efficient
- Do not use lights with frayed wires, cracked sockets or exposed wires
- Check for bulbs that have fallen and broken
- Do not try to trim the tree with a saw or knife–let the person or business from whom you bought the tree do it for you
2. Fireplace and Candles
If you have a fireplace, be sure there is a wire curtain or other device to prevent embers from leaping out. Be sure the fire is completely out before you go to sleep or when leaving the residence. Ensure that all burning candles are not close to papers, fabrics, chemicals or within range of small children. Blow them out before you retire for the evening or if leaving your home.
3. Get Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Although not required, be sure you have a functioning smoke detector on every level of your home. All new units must have smoke detectors installed or when renovations are being made in a sleeping area. If you are a tenant, you must inform your landlord of a malfunctioning smoke detector. If you do not and a fire damages your property or causes you injury, you may not be able to sustain an injury claim against the landlord.
Although Arizona does not require carbon dioxide detectors, it is highly recommended that you get one if you have a fuel burning appliance or an attached garage.
Many deaths occur because of poor ventilation or because a car engine was left on to warm the vehicle in the garage.
4. Putting Up Decorations
Many more injuries occur from falls during the Christmas season than from fires, especially when hanging decorations in the home or outside. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are about 250 injuries per day from November to January that require hospital care due to a fall from someone trying to hang lights or other decorations. These include back strains as well as falls that result in a broken pelvis, arm, leg, head injury or spinal injury.
You can avoid a fall from putting up decorations by:
- Refrain from drinking. Even a single drink can cause dizziness and cause you to lose your balance or miss a step on a ladder
- Practice ladder safety. Be sure the ladder is safe with no loose rungs or steps. Have someone hold it for you at all times and do not allow children on the ladder
- Do not wear sneakers or slippers when on a ladder since you can easily slip off
- Get a firm footing on the ladder
- Stay off the roof. Regardless of how athletic you are, a simple misstep can cause you to fall
Another hazard in putting up decorations is the risk of an electric shock. Do not use extension cords outside since they are not waterproof and can shock you if it rained or snowed recently. Outside lights can also be a fire hazard.
5. Care in Opening Presents
Believe it or not, opening a Christmas present can be hazardous to your health. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 6000 people per year suffer lacerations and other injuries when opening a wrapped or boxed gift. You can avoid this by not using scissors or knives to open a present.
6. Inspect Your Home
Inspect your home for hazards before guests come over. This includes looking for and removing broken lights or decorations with sharp edges. Replace broken light bulbs in outside areas and repair torn carpeting or a broken or uneven step. Although you are not required to look for hidden hazards that you were unaware of, why take the risk of a guest suffering an injury or bringing a lawsuit if someone is injured and claims you did know or should have known about a hazard that may or may not have been reasonably visible?
In regards to your guests drinking at your home, Arizona limits social host liability, meaning that you are not held responsible if someone gets drunk at your home and then causes an injury accident unless the intoxicated person was a minor. In any event, limit the risk of a guest causing an alcohol-related accident by following these suggestions:
- Announce beforehand that a designated driver should drive for guests who do drink or have them arrive and leave via a ride-sharing service or taxi
- Be sure your homeowner’s policy covers liquor liability
- Consider hiring bartenders and instruct them to monitor alcohol consumption or to refuse to provide drinks for obviously intoxicated persons or anyone who is a minor or appears to be. If a person appears intoxicated, the bartender should ensure the person will not be driving that evening. And anyone who looks under 21 should provide a photo ID
7. Driving Hazards and Tips
The holidays are often the most hazardous times for driving. Although the Christmas season is less hazardous for drivers and pedestrians than New Year’s, Thanksgiving, or the July 4th weekend, drunk driving detentions still increase by about 33% on Christmas Eve according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And between Christmas and New Year’s, traffic accidents and fatalities increase substantially. Of course, other factors lead to an increase in traffic-related accidents. More drivers are on the road, especially young motorists who are off from school. Consequently, there are more speeding, unsafe lane changes, texting and driving, and other unsafe practices that lead to tragic incidents.
You can prevent becoming another tragic statistic by following some commonsense tips:
- Before taking a trip, check your car’s tires, oil and coolant, brakes and steering systems. In other words, get a full maintenance or service check. If driving in snow, get snow tires or have chains available
- Test your battery and windshield wipers and replace them if you have any concerns
- If using a GPS, review it before you drive. It is usually best to leave early in the morning or late at night when traffic is generally lighter. Bring a paper map in case the GPS fails to work or your charger suddenly fails to work.
- Check the weather conditions before you leave
- Take a break every 2-3 hours, or every 100 miles. It keeps you fresh and more alert. Don’t be afraid of letting someone else drive if you begin to feel fatigued or lose focus.
- Drive defensively
- Never text and drive
- Never drink and drive
- Be sure you and all passengers wear a seatbelt
Finally, use common sense in preparing for the holidays and follow these and other suggestions to keep yourself and others injury-free. Have a safe and happy holiday season!