Hang your holiday lights safely

For a lot of us the holiday’s mean decorating with festive lights inside and outside the home. But hanging holiday lights can be extremely dangerous if you don’t take safety into account. Every year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission 15,000 people are injured during the holidays due to decoration-related incidents.

Dr. Shane Lewis, System Medical Director of Safety and Risk at Intermountain Healthcare says, “Hanging holiday lights is more than just ‘being careful.’ There are certain factors that can increase your risk for injury.” 

Here are just a few precautions, sensible strategies, and safety tips you can take to keep you out of the emergency room.

  • Check the weather. Rain, snow, and wind all increase the risk factors. Don’t underestimate the snow and ice. Roofs can accumulate snow and be just as slippery as ice. If it’s currently snowing or raining you might have to pick another day to hang the lights. 
  • Check your ladder. Make sure the ladder you climb on is the right one for the job, it’s firm, on a level surface, and can hold your weight. Stepladders are best for tasks just a few feet off the ground.For anything higher than 10 feet or higher use a conventional extension ladder that will extend long enough that you don’t have to stretch or reach in an unsafe manner.
  • Work with someone. Have someone spot you and hold the ladder. The buddy system is the best.
  • Check your lights. Christmas lights are labeled for specific use, so check to see if you are using outdoor specific lights. Indoor-only lights aren’t insulated like outdoor lights. If they are lights you have used for many years, inspect them and look for cracked sockets, wire frays, and burnt out or missing bulbs – those can cause an electrical fire.
  • Wear the proper clothing. You want to wear shoes with good traction and slip resistant. Also wear appropriate safety gear like work gloves, safety glasses, long pants and shirts with sleeves.
  • Know your limitations. If you don’t feel comfortable getting on a ladder or are over 65-years-old, ask a friend or family member for help, or hire a professional.
  • Be patient. Putting up lights can be a pain and time-consuming, but don’t rush the job. Do one small area at a time and keep moving your ladder so you don’t have to reach. And if you don’t get it done in one day, come back the next – decorating in the dark can be disastrous and increases your risk of injury.
  • Don’t drink and decorate, especially if you’re going to be climbing a ladder.
  • Don’t delay treatment. Often people will postpone seeking medical treatment merely because it’s the holiday season. Dr. Lewis says delays can often just cause bigger problems.