Christmas - Peak time for accidents

By Mike Clift | December 15, 2019

christmas scene

Christmas is a peak time for accidents in the home and at work

The holiday season is a busy time for people at home and in the workplace. Residents and workers are hurrying to get tasks completed, under pressure to finish up at work and get the house ready for the season of goodwill.

There are many way to celebrate and our advice applies to Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Eid al-Fitr, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Las Posadas and Chinese New Year. Whatever your belief or however you celebrate it, our advice can help keep you, your family, friends and colleagues safe during periods of celebration.

As we know, hurrying around while busy, getting distracted and being engaged in exceptional activities unfortunately creates the ideal circumstances for accidents to happen. Nobody wants to be an eternal pessimist or a killjoy but it pays to exercise a little caution at Christmas time. In this article we aim to raise your awareness of these seasonally increased risk factors.

Have a Merry Christmas and stay safe with our comprehensive list of safety tips…

Here is a list of common seasonal risk factors, which we expand upon in the remainder of this article.

  • The Kitchen.
  • Christmas Trees.
  • The Stairs.
  • Electricity Supply.
  • Exterior Lights.
  • Trip Hazards
  • Back Injuries.
  • Open Fires.
  • Hanging Objects.
  • Hand Injuries.
  • General Distraction.
  • Young Children.

Do also consider that such risks can be mitigated through the appropriate training in First Aid. Employers, particularly, should take the opportunity to have their employees attend professionally run First Aid courses.

//: # “ALERT”

The Kitchen

In the home and at work, kitchens are in heavier use during the rush to provide seasonal meals and treats. Busy people spending more time in the kitchen results in an increase in the accident rate. The most common injuries in the kitchen are cuts and burns. Don't take chances because you are in a hurry; better to take your time and stay safe.

Tips: Ensure that pots of boiling water are safely centred on the hob. Wear oven gloves for handling hot plates when retrieving them from the oven. Slow down a bit when using kitchen knives to chop meat or peel vegetables. Keep a first aid kit handy in case of an accident and also consider purchasing an approved fire blanket to cope with possible pan fires.

Christmas Trees

Christmas trees, as lovely and cheerful as they might appear, can add to the increased rate of injuries during the holiday season. Associated accidents can include injuries sustained when retrieving trees from lofts and garages. The projecting tips of synthetic branches have been known to cause minor eye injuries. Collapsing trees can be a potential danger to small children and pets. Faulty Christmas tree lights can also cause house fires and, according to Forbes, this is one of the most common Yuletide related accidents.

Tips: Mind your eyes when handling large Christmas trees with sharp branch ends. Ensure your tree has a stable base or stand that is up to the job of keeping it upright. Use purpose built steps or a stepladder when decorating the tree, rather than a slippery or rickety, old chair. Use only approved electric tree lights that are in good condition with no loose bulbs and no damaged or exposed wires.

The Stairs

Stairs can be hazardous to people working long hours in the run up to Christmas. According to the NHS, fatigue and higher levels of alcohol consumption during the month of December increases the chances of slipping or falling while negotiating home or workplace staircases.

Tips: Take your time when ascending or descending staircases, particularly if you are tired from working long hours or making preparations for Christmas. Exercise particular caution when using the stairs if you have been drinking alcohol; this applies both at home and when attending the Christmas office party.

Electricity Supply

Many items given as Christmas presents are electronically powered. Such gifts can include anything from TVs, computers, games machines, hair dryers and styling tongs to phones and other items that take rechargeable batteries.

Tips: Be sure to check all new electrically powered gifts. Ensure that such gifts are from a trusted supplier and bear the recognised symbols to ensure that they are approved for use in your country and with your local electricity provider. Check casings and electrical leads to ensure that nothing has been damaged in transit. Use only approved battery chargers and don't leave items charging overnight, particularly upon first charge when any existing faults are most likely to become apparent.

Exterior Lights

Many people decorate their homes or places of work with exterior lights to brighten their street or attract more Christmas trade. These decorative additions can include stings of coloured lights and illuminated Christmas figures such as Santa's sleigh and reindeers. Exterior lights can cause a house fire if not properly installed.

Tips: Use only approved exterior lights and all weather cables. Ensure that they are in good condition. Check the cables for damage or signs of wear and be particularly vigilant when it's raining and you are working in wet conditions. Follow safe practices when using ladders to fix decorations on the upper storeys of your home or workplace. Ensure that you are using reliable fittings when attaching objects at height to prevent anything heavy falling down upon yourself or others and causing injuries.

Trip Hazards

Opening Christmas presents can result in the floor of your living room becoming strewn with assorted items and loose wrapper paper. Electrical chords might also be laid out over your carpet.

Tips: Once presents have been opened, ensure that they are not left in places where somebody might walk into them and trip over. Remove large sheets of opened wrapping paper that might obscure trip hazards on the ground. Run any electrical leads and extensions being used to power new items of out harms way, perhaps around the walls of the room instead of in the path of people where they might cause an accident.

Back Injuries

Back injuries are common over the holiday period where people are moving heavy presents around, rearranging furniture to cater for visitors or handling heavy luggage prior to or during a trip away for the holiday period.

Tips: Don't try and move or handle heavy objects alone if it is too much for you - get some help. Don't over pack suitcases and bags; think about taking less with you or spreading the load with extra bags if your trip allows for it.

Open Fires

Many people light open fires over Christmas for extra warmth or just a homelier atmosphere. There is something very special about an open fire flickering away beneath the mantelpiece during the holiday season but it carries with it additional hazards to your home and those around you.

Tips: Keep an eye on children to ensure they do not interfere with or feed the fire with unsuitable fuel, such as wrapping paper or maybe a discarded box from a Christmas present. Adults can sometimes too warrant a watchful eye, particular if they are very tired or have consumed alcohol. Use a fireguard to prevent burning debris entering the room and remove any trip hazards to prevent people falling onto an open fire.

Hanging Objects

Act wisely when hanging decorative objects from your walls and ceilings. Think about potential hazards to others, particularly taller family or friends who might be visiting. Sharp or heavy objects that are hanging too low could potentially injure somebody. Common problems attributed to hanging objects are eye injuries from protruding points or cuts and abrasions to the head from sharp edges.

Tips: Think about what you are going to hang from the walls and ceilings of your home or workplace. Best stick to soft and smooth objects. Be sure to hang such items high enough not to be a problem to yourself, taller family members, friends or work colleagues.

Hand Injuries

Christmas is a busy time and for many it involves cooking extra food, making preparations for visitors and opening presents. These are all activities that can offer potential hazards and result in injuries, particularly to the hands. These might sound like unreasonable concerns but hospital admission statistics tell us otherwise.

Tips: Observe care in the kitchen, particularly with your hands and lower arms, as detailed in the relevant section above on kitchen safety. Mind your fingers if moving heavy objects around, such as furniture in readiness for guests or very large and heavy presents. It's all too easy to catch your fingers in between heavy objects and door frames or stair rails, so take your time. Take care when opening presents and when carrying out any instructions to assemble them or install batteries. Watch out for staples or sharp edges on boxes and take care if using scissors or a Stanley blade to assist with difficult to open items.

General Distraction

Christmas is a very busy time of year and it's far easier than is is at other times to become distracted either by what you are doing or by the increased activity that is going on around you. These elevated levels of activity are precisely what is responsible for the increase in accident statistics at this time of year.

Tips: Firstly, be mindful and self-aware of your own personal safety and the safety of people around you. Those people might be family members, friends or colleagues. Accidents are more likely to occur at Christmas than at most other times of the year. Remain aware of the most common sources of problems, as outlined above. Bear in mind the tips we have provided you with to help lower these risks. Also, if you are not already trained, think about booking some First Aid training as a means of dealing with any accidents that might occur resulting in injury in your home or workplace.

//: # “ALERT”

Young children

Be extra vigilant in regard to your your children over the Christmas period as this is also a time of increased accidents to infants and teenagers. The kids will be on holiday playing either in the house or outside in the garden or in the street.

Tips: Keep an eye on toddlers wandering off outside alone when doors are continually being opened to receive visitors. Keep children out of the kitchen, away from hot pans and ovens and be aware of any new items being introduced into the home environment that could constitute potential hazards, such as gifts featuring sharp objects, small magnets, batteries, poisonous materials or choking hazards.

//: # “ALERT”

Stay safe during the holiday period

The best way to keep yourself and others safe over the holiday period is to develop an appreciation of potential risks arising at this time of year. No need to overly worry and spoil the holiday but it's better to give at least some consideration to these issues and take appropriate action to lessen the likelihood of any unnecessary accidents ocurring.

Tips: You don't want your break being ruined by unnecessary incidents which result in you having to cope with a minor injury or ending up spending hours or days over the holiday period in the Accident and Emergency department of your local hospital. Follow all of our advice above and this will be far less likely to happen. Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Eid al-Fitr, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Las Posadas and a Happy New Year to all of you.

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About The Author

Mike Clift

Mike is a Director and Trainer at Seahaven Safety Training. He has many years of professional experience within the health and safety training industry and has an excellent reputation for teaching. He has a real care for the training process and is dedicated to providing his students with a positive and meaningful training experience.

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