'Tis the Season for Christmas Light Safety Tips

By Randy Clayton on Nov 21, 2023
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Some say it’s the most wonderful time of the year, and most of us would probably agree. It’s the season we hang our stockings by the chimney with care and string twinkling lights up on our trees. And people are just a little bit kinder as they remember the reason for the season.

While Christmas lights are, without a doubt, a delightful part of this season's charm, safety should never be compromised for the sake of decoration. By following these Christmas light safety tips, you can ensure a safe, bright and joyous holiday season. Remember, a little precaution goes a long way in making your holidays both beautiful and secure.

Climb Responsibly

From outdoor holiday lights strung high, to the star atop your tree, it’s almost impossible to avoid using a ladder. And while it may seem like it’s not a big deal, 40% of the 14,800 holiday decorating-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms during the 2022 holiday season were due to falls.

Here’s a tip - always keep three body parts in contact with the ladder at all times. Additionally, don’t climb higher than the third step from the top and never sit on the top of the ladder.

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Burn Candles Cautiously 

How many house fires are caused by candles? The U.S. fire departments respond to approximately 8,200 home structure fires started by candles each year resulting in 80 deaths, 770 injuries and $264 million in direct property damage. The winter holiday season is when candle fires hit their peak.

In fact, year-round, 33% of home decoration fires were started by candles. But during the month of December, this jumps to almost half.

Some extra caution this holiday season will keep spirits bright. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that could catch fire, always blow them out before leaving a room or going to bed, and never light your Christmas tree with candles.

RELATED: Thanksgiving On the Go: Essential Holiday Travel Safety Tips >>

Check Cords

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 860 home fires each year are caused by holiday decorations. With that in mind, before you deck the halls:

  • Check for damage

    The pre-install inspection is a must-complete item on our Christmas light safety checklist. Before stringing lights, carefully inspect each set for frayed wires, bare spots, broken sockets or loose connections.
  • Replace and repair

    Discard lights with exposed wires or damaged sockets immediately. A single faulty strand isn't worth the risk. While decorating, or at any time during the season, if you notice your cords are warm to the touch, immediately unplug and dispose of them.
  • LED vs incandescent 

    Consider using LED lights, which are cooler, more energy-efficient, and less likely to overheat.
Christmas Lights

Follow Electrical Limits 

If you’ve seen "National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation" where Clark Griswald (Chevy Chase) lights up the outside of his home with 25,000 lights, then you know exactly what it looks like to not follow Christmas light safety tips nor heed electrical limits. Funny, yes, but definitely not bright.

Most manufacturers will let you know the electrical limits of their lights by specifying how many strands can be connected at once. If you don’t know, then it’s best to follow the rule of three for incandescent lights.

Never connect more than three incandescent light strands together and be sure to have plenty of extension cords on hand.

RELATED: How to Handle Holiday Vacation Requests >>

Indoor vs Outdoor Extension Cord

While you can always use an outdoor extension cord inside, you can never use an indoor cord outside. Using indoor extension cords outside is not recommended for several reasons, primarily related to safety and the cord's design.

Here's a look at five main differences between an indoor vs outdoor extension cord:

  • Weather resistance 

    Indoor extension cords are not designed to withstand outdoor conditions. They lack the necessary insulation and protective coatings that outdoor cords have, making them vulnerable to weather elements like rain, snow and extreme temperatures. Exposure to moisture can lead to short circuits or electric shock.

  • Durability 

    Outdoor extension cords are built to be more durable. They are made with thicker insulation and are often more rugged to withstand physical wear and tear that comes with outdoor use, such as being stepped on or run over, exposure to sunlight, or lying on rough surfaces.

  • Electrical safety 

    Outdoor cords are often designed to handle a higher current load, which is important for many outdoor electrical needs. Indoor cords might not be able to handle such loads, leading to overheating or even fire hazards.

  • Grounding

    Many outdoor extension cords come with a grounding feature (three-pronged plugs) as an added safety measure against potential electrical hazards. Indoor cords often lack this feature, making them unsuitable for appliances or tools that require grounding.

  • Certifications and ratings 

    Outdoor extension cords are specifically tested and certified for outdoor use, meeting certain standards and regulations. Using an indoor cord outside can mean using a product that hasn’t been tested for those conditions, increasing risk.

For these reasons, when it comes to indoor vs outdoor extension cords, it's crucial to use the correct type for the intended environment to ensure both the safety of the user and the longevity of the cord itself.

 spectacular holiday lights

Unplug Lights While Unattended

According to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), most deadly fires happen while people are asleep. That's why you should never leave lights on while unattended. If you’re leaving your home, even if only for an hour, or going to bed for the night, be sure to unplug your lights. 

Utilize Smart Lighting Options

Timers and smart plugs are a great way to take advantage of modern technology for Christmas light safety:

  • Timers

    Use timers to automatically turn lights on and off. This not only saves energy but also ensures lights aren't left on accidentally.
  • Smart plugs 

    Control your lights remotely using smart plugs and your smartphone. This means you can turn your lights on or off from anywhere, ensuring they're not left on accidentally for extended periods, which can be a fire hazard.

RELATED: How to Avoid Legal Liability in Your Company's Holiday Stocking >> 

Freshest Is Best

Nothing beats the look and smell of a real Christmas tree. That said, the National Fire Protection Association reports more than 200 Christmas tree fires happen each year. While it may not seem too common, they are more likely to be deadly than other home fires.

To be as safe as possible, select a tree that appears as fresh as possible with green needles that don’t easily fall to the ground, or better yet cut down your very own from a tree farm (click here for a list of local Kansas City tree farms).

Before placing the tree indoors, be sure to make a fresh cut at least two inches from the bottom and be sure to check its water level daily, never allowing it to go dry.

The real key to safety is placement. Never place the tree within three feet of a heat source including fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights. Last, but not least, follow our holiday lighting safety tips when decorating your tree.

From all of us at Axcet HR Solutions, we hope you have a very merry holiday season shared with friends and family both near and far.

About Axcet HR Solutions

Axcet HR Solutions is a certified PEO headquartered in Kansas City since 1988. As part of our lineup of comprehensive PEO services, we have a full team of risk management consultants who are workers’ compensation and workplace safety experts.

When you partner with Axcet – a trusted risk management PEO – you can be confident your employees and business are protected. To speak with one of our health and safety experts, reach out today >>

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Written by Randy Clayton

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