What do you think of when someone says the words holiday decorations? The child in you probably rejoices with nostalgia. The adult in you groans with the realization it will be you atop the ladder in the cold, hearing a little to the left… no, too far… maybe we should put that somewhere else from behind you. Not to mention the potential for injuries. It’s the second biggest reason why people who work in healthcare hate working during the holidays (the first having to do with spending time away from family, of course).
They see more avoidable injuries between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than they can stomach. Don’t be a statistic: take heed of these tips to stay safe this holiday season, while keeping your traditions of exorbitant exterior lighting schemes alive like Clark Griswold.
- Take your time. You don’t have to impress your family by nonchalantly walking around on the roof, or running up a ladder without anyone holding it steady. Ladders aren’t toys, and you have to treat them with respect. But just because you shouldn’t play with ladders doesn’t mean you can’t use your ladder to have a little fun. Your house, yard, window boxes, and shrubs are collectively your canvas, and it’s the time of year to show your creativity.
- Don’t cut corners. There are plenty of things you can do to keep yourself healthy and injury-free while using a ladder to deck the halls. Never violate these safety tips:
- Ascend and descend facing the ladder.
- Step on each rung with both feet before continuing up.
- Use both hands to hold the sides of the ladder—carry tools in a tool belt, not your hands.
- Wear non-slip shoes.
- Don’t overreach—keep your torso centered with the ladder.
- Don’t go above the highest safe standing level (that top part of your ladder is not for stepping).
- Keep three points of contact with the ladder at all times (two feet, and at least one hand, for example).
- Mind the electricity. Power cords can prove to be a problem on many levels. First, be mindful of tangling power cords. After they’re hung or run around the exterior of your home, take a roll of duct tape and close up the open socket holes if any exist. This prevents rain and snow from getting into the circuit, which could cause a power short and put all your hard work out for good. Be sure not to puncture any cords with nails and tacks—drape them, don’t poke through them.
- Teach the kids. Don’t let them get into bad habits— what you teach them about safety now could help prevent injuries in their future and set them on a healthy path toward DIY excellence.
And these tips are just for the outside. Stay safe indoors with the following reminders:
- These days, a home’s electrical system isn’t as dangerous to operate as they used to be. You shouldn’t get too many sparks and power outages caused by excessive plugging (a la A Christmas Story). Instead, a smaller circuit will blow and only cut power to a specific section of your house. Still, you can prevent this from happening by spacing out where you plug in your lights, moveable Santas, Menorahs, and so on.
- And speaking of sparks, don’t overlook the fires you may have indoors, such as fireplaces and even candles. It doesn’t take a lot for a flame to ignite a dried pine needle or wreath.
- Be sure to have your chimney inspected and cleaned for the season. Chimney fires are all too common, but easy to prevent.
- If you’re going to have a real Christmas tree, be sure to take your time selecting the freshest one you can find. If real is the only way for you, hold off on getting the tree until the second weekend in December. Be sure to trim it appropriately and keep its weight balanced by securing it in a stand. Keep the tree hydrated—hot lights on a dried-out tree are a hazard.
- This might be the most important tip of all: hot chocolate. Find yourself a break and enjoy the warmth with a bit of hot chocolate and marshmallows. It’s the holidays!
Decorating the house is a great way to bond with your family, meet your neighbors, get outside and enjoy the crisp air. By following these tips, you can avoid slips and falls, electrical conundrums, fallen Christmas trees, and fire hazards. After all, this is a time to be merry, not moody.
“Christmas Decorations” Photo Credit: dr_XeNo