How to decorate safely during the holidays

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As many begin to deck the halls this holiday season, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is reminding those decorating to do so safely.

The CPSC estimated that, following the holiday season last year, 14,700 people visited the emergency room for decorating-related injuries. This is equivalent to about 240 injuries per day during the holiday season.

“Safety should be part of all your decorating efforts,” CPSC acting chairman Ann Marie Buerkle said. “Make sure your live Christmas tree has plenty of water, keep lit candles away from flammable items, and use caution when standing on a ladder or a chair to hang decorations.”

The most frequent holiday decorating injuries involve falls, lacerations and back strains, according to the CPSC. Last year, three people died due to falling off a ladder.

The CPSC provided the following tips to help prevent decorating-related injuries:

Trees and decorations:

  • Buying a live tree? Check for freshness: A fresh tree is green, its needles are hard to pull from branches and its needles do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  • Setting up a tree at home? Place it away from heat sources: This includes fireplaces, vents, and radiators. Heated rooms rapidly dry out live trees, be sure to monitor water levels daily and keep the tree stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of foot traffic and do not block doorways with the tree.
  • Buying an artificial tree? Look for the label: “Fire Resistant:” Although this label does not mean that the tree will not catch fire, the tree is more resistant to catching fire.
  • Decorating a tree in homes with small children?: Avoid sharp or breakable decorations. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of small children who could swallow or inhale small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to try to eat them.

Candles, lights and fireplaces:

  • Keep burning candles within sight: Extinguish all candles before leaving the room.
  • Keep candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface: Keep them where children and pets cannot reach them or knock them over. Place lit candles away from items that can catch fire such as trees, decorations, curtains and furniture.
  • Only use lights tested for safety: They should be tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Lights for both indoor and outdoor usage must meet strict standards that testing laboratories are able to verify.
  • Check each set of lights: The lights, new or old, should be checked for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets and do not use electric lights on a metallic tree.
  • Check each extension cord: Make sure it is rated for the intended use and is in good condition. Do not use cords with cuts or signs of fraying.
  • Check outdoor lights for labels: This shows the lights have been certified for outdoor use and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.
  • Use care with “fire salts:” The salts produce colored flames when thrown onto wood fires. Fire salts contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if swallowed. Keep them away from children.
  • Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace:A flash fire may result because wrappings can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

In regards to smoke alarms, the CPSC recommends having working smoke detectors on every floor of the home and in every bedroom. They also recommend testing smoke alarms every month to make sure they work properly, and to change the batteries every year.