As the cold weather moves in and the holiday season begins, it is time to bring out the lights and decorations to help celebrate the season. This is a time of excitement, so it can be easy to overlook the potential hazards of lights and decorations. The main areas of concern are fire and electric shock hazards from holiday lighting, and falls from ladders when putting up the decorations. Follow these tips to keep everyone safe this holiday season.

Holiday lightsSafety Tips for Holiday Lights

  • Use UL-Listed lights. When buying string lights or lighted decorations, look for ones that are UL Listed. UL-Listed lights have undergone rigorous testing to ensure the product itself is safe and less likely to have a mechanical or electrical breakdown.
  • Know if your lights are safe for outdoors. When decorating outdoors, it is important to use lights and decorations that are rated for outdoor use. Using indoor-only products outside will significantly increase the risk of a failure, which can lead to a fire or an electric shock. To know if you have indoor or outdoor lights, check the color-coded UL mark on the product’s package. A green holographic UL mark means indoors only, while a red one indicates that the product is safe for both indoor and outdoor use.
  • Check lights for damage. It is important to check over all lighting before putting it up. Look for damage to the wire insulation, plugs, and bulbs. Broken bulbs should be replaced, but damaged wiring is more serious and should not be repaired. A few wraps of electrical tape is not sufficient; if cords or plugs are damaged, discard and replace the light string.
  • Test your lights. If you find that bulbs need replacing, it is important to make sure the wattage of the new bulb aligns with the old bulb. If the wattage for the replacement bulb is too high it can cause the light string to mechanically break down, overheat and cause a fire. After confirming that the lights are ready to use, always turn the power off while putting lights up.
  • Play it safe with extension cords. When using extension cords to power your lights or decorations, make sure the cord is rated for outdoor/indoor use and is heavy-duty enough for the number and type of lights and decorations you will plug into it. Most lights and decorations have a maximum number of fixtures or strings that can be inter-connected or “daisy chained” together. Do not exceed this limit; doing so increases the risk of a fire.
  • Turn lights off. Remember to always turn off all decorations and lights before leaving the house or going to bed.

Practice good ladder safety when hanging holiday decorationsLadder Safety Tips

Most of us rely on a ladder when putting up lights and decorations. To avoid potential falls, it is important to make sure the ladder is the right one for the task, and that it is being used properly. Avoid an unwanted holiday fall from a ladder with these tips.

  • Use the correct ladder. First and foremost, it’s critical that you’re using the right ladder for the task.
    • A step ladder should never be used like a straight ladder.
    • Never stand higher than the second step from the top on a step ladder and never, ever stand on the top of a stepladder.
    • Straight ladders must be long enough to extend three feet, or about three rungs, above the roof or gutter line.
    • The base of a straight ladder must be placed one foot out for every four feet it extends up.
  • Work with a partner. When you’re hanging up lights or decorations from a ladder, have someone else working with you. This “spotter” at the bottom of the ladder is there to make sure it is steady and won’t slip out or to the side and cause you to fall. Also, if a situation arises, such as a fall, that second person can help call for help and potentially start first aid.
  • Keep the ladder level and secure. When using any ladder, make sure that the ladder is on secure and level footing before climbing. When you space the base of a straight ladder, you should be going one foot away from the wall for every four feet it reaches up.
  • Stay centered on the ladder. Keep centered between the rails of the ladder when hanging up decorations or lights. The rule of thumb is to always keep your belt buckle within the side rails of the ladder. Do not overreach; if you can’t reach it, simply move the ladder.
  • Keep three points of contact on the ladder. Always keep three points of contact on the ladder as you climb – two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand. This ensures you are as stable as possible and reduces the chance of a fall. When climbing, grip the rungs of the ladder and not the side rails.
  • Stay away from power lines. Do not work near the power lines that extend to your house. While they may look like they are insulated, they aren’t; they only have a weather coating. Keep yourself and any decorations at least 10 feet away from any power lines.

More Electrical and Ladder Safety Tips

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are some bonus safety tips from previous Society risk control blogs:

Please keep these tips in mind when preparing for a merry holiday season. From all of us at Society Insurance, happy holidays and stay safe!

To learn more about how Society can help your business prevent injury and financial loss, contact your local Society agent.

-Adam Olijnyk