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Holiday decorating-related injuries up for the fourth year

The number of holiday injuries has increased for the fourth year in a row, according to a new government report.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said there was about 15,000 injuries involving holiday decorating between Nov. and Dec. 2012.

“There are about 250 injuries a day during the holiday season. Adding safety to your checklist can keep a holiday tradition from becoming a holiday tragedy,” CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler said in a press release.

The most common injuries included falls (34 percent), followed by lacerations (11 percent) and back strains (10 percent).

Ladder Safety

When using a ladder to hang decorations, use the correct ladder that is at least three feet over the roofline or working surface, CPSC recommended. Make sure it is able to support your weight and the objects you are going to place on it.

Place the ladder on firm and level ground. Having a person hold the ladder at the bottom can also help stabilize it, but only allow one person on the ladder at a time.

Single extension or straight ladders should be placed at a 75-degree angle, meaning you should be able to stand up straight with your toes touching the feet of the ladder while it is leaning away from you. You should also be able to put your palms at the top rung of the ladder, or that step should be about shoulder level.

Keep the ladder away from doors that might open into it, and do not use a metal ladder near electrical equipment or power lines. Wood or fiberglass ladders can be used in this situation. Do not use any ladders near live electrical wires.

Stand in the middle of the step of each ladder, and do not lean to the side. Never step on the top step or the bucket shelf.

Put the ladder away when not in use, and never leave it unattended.

Fire Safety

Fires are also a risk at this time of year. Between 2009 to 2011, fire departments across the U.S. responded to about 200 fires where the Christmas tree was the first to ignite, CPSC said. About 10 deaths, 20 injuries and $16 million in property loss were due to tree-related fires.

Candle-related fires from 2009 to 2011 caused 70 deaths, 680 injuries and $308 million in property loss as well.

The CPSC reminded people that in order to prevent fires, they should get rid of holiday lights that have visible damage like broken sockets and bare wires. Lights should be tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and used as designated for outdoor or indoor use. Extension chords should not be frayed or broken, and should be used for its intended outdoor or indoor use as well. If using lights oudoors, plug all lights into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.

Candles should always be burned within sight and kept on a stable, heat-resistant surface.

Live Christmas trees should be watered frequently and set up away from heat sources. If using an artificial Christmas tree, make sure it is “fire resistant." This doesn't mean that the tree can't ignite, but it does lower the risk.

Never burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. 

Keeping Kids Safe

Be cautious when using “fire salts,” which cause the flames to change color due to their heavy metal content. Unfortunately, they may also be ingested by young children, and can cause gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting.

When kids are around, make sure to not use sharp, weighted or breakable ornaments. Items with small, removable parts should not be easily accessible by young children who can swallow them. Any decorations that look like candy or food should also be avoided because they may encourage a child to eat them.

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