The holiday season is one of the most exciting times of the year for households across the world. The festive season can bring friends, family, neighbours and communities closer together, often with food, presents and decorations aplenty. Christmas is different from all the other holidays in the sense that, in the UK, we pride ourselves on amplifying the holiday spirit through the erection of festival decorations inside and outside of our homes: trees, signs, tinsel, baubles, crèche, fairy lights, and candles.
Decking the halls is an essential part of the holidays, a tradition that dates back many centuries, when people believed that decorating bushes in the winter time could make them attractive to the spirits, which they believed had fled for shelter from the harsh weather.
In Britain the date in which decorations should be erected is still widely debated every year, and socially it seems that any time after the 29th of November is acceptable. With the holiday season approaching, we may not pause and think about the dangers associated with the holiday season as much as we ought to. But, considering that an estimated 88,000 people a year need hospital treatment for injuries such as falls, cuts and burns during the holiday season, what dangers should parents be keeping an eye out for this holiday season?
Throughout the festive period your home is likely to be full of family and friends, and in the excitement of the season accidents can easily happen.
An accident could occur at any time and in any place, not just during the obvious activities such as cooking or hanging decorations. Read the following advice to keep your family safe this Christmas:
The Christmas tree has been at the centre of Christmas celebrations since the early 16th century. The Christmas tree plays a vital role within a household; housing presents and supporting the stories of Santa that parents tell to their children whilst they grow up.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) report that every year 1000 people are injured by their tree, and that the accidents usually occur when people are putting up decorations. The Norwegian spruce is therefore not as innocent as it looks; you often hear and see stories in the local media about house fires around the holiday season.
Decorating the Christmas tree in the UK is an exciting family activity and for those that are taking part there are a few things that can be done to ensure that the worst doesn’t happen:
It is unwise to over-stretch in any situation as not only can you potentially pull muscles but you could also fall over and injure yourself and others in the process. At Christmas it is common to see people with muscle related injuries as they over-stretch to hang wreaths or dress the tree. If you cannot reach the top of the tree then you should consider using a step ladder to reach those tough spots – you don’t want to be responsible for ruining the family’s hard work by either crushing the tree or falling on top of a relative!
Tree Anchors & Bases
Before the family adds all the decorations onto the Christmas tree it must be checked to see if it’s secure; and if it is easily moved then it should be weighted. You do not want the tree to fall and crush a family member if knocked or pulled, so remember to invest in an appropriate tree anchor/base when buying a real tree this Christmas.
Weighting the appropriate foundation with heavy objects and making sure it is installed correctly should help reduce the chance of the tree being knocked over this Christmas.
Freshly cut trees are usually well resistant to ignition; however it is when the tree becomes old and begins to dry out that it becomes less resistant to ignition. One of the best methods of stopping a tree from dying and becoming more “flammable” is to water the tree regularly if you have an openly accessible base.
If you don’t have the luxury of space in your home for a large tree then it is highly advisable to avoid investing in an oversized tree. A taller tree that is harder to reach has the potential to cause problems as, when the time comes around to decorate, it won’t be straightforward and will likely have awkward to reach spaces.
Larger trees in smaller spaces can be easily knocked over when there is little room for movement. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all guide to the right tree size for your home but it is wise to think smaller rather than larger if you want to encourage a safe environment this Christmas.
Parents might not be aware of the fact that in the festive season they will be housing some potentially poisonous plants:
- Mistletoe – Kissing under the mistletoe is a holiday tradition we have become accustomed to. The berries on mistletoe contain toxic proteins that if consumed can cause vivid hallucinations and slow the heart rate down.
- Christmas Roses – The Christmas rose is the best known and certainly the showiest of the species hellebores; it has long been associated with Christmas, the New Year and a longing for spring. Often given as a present over the festive period the rose can cause diarrhoea if consumed.
- Christmas Cherries – the winter cherry is used in a variety of dishes at Christmas dinner. It is highly recommended that orange cherries not be consumed as they can cause severe stomach pains.
In the UK it is estimated that 350 people a year will be hurt by Christmas tree lights. A wide range of injuries are recorded each year from people falling from their ladders, children swallowing bulbs, people receiving electric shocks and burns from faulty lights.
Handling, fixing, untangling and erecting lights can all be a challenge regardless of your knowledge and experience of fairy lights. One of the most common reasons injuries occur is through the use of broken lights. Usually families will keep hold of their festive lights for several years and in that time wires can become deteriorated and damaged making a once safe product unusable.
Testing all the lights before they are used is essential and will usually aid parents in finding faults (Exposed wiring, broke or cracked sockets, loose connections, etc…) that wouldn’t necessarily be picked up once added to a Christmas tree, wall or building. Any fault that is found should be fixed, following the manufactures instructions and using high quality bulbs, wiring and or fuse.
In recent years new innovations in lighting have led to products becoming of a higher quality, producing less heat, brighter lights and costing less money. New higher safety standards in production mean that new lights will reduce the risk of accidents in your home as they will be less likely to be broken, deteriorate quickly or need replacing.
Plug-sockets are regularly in demand over the festive holidays as both parents and children alike battle for socket space for their phones, tablet computers and toys. During the festive holiday sockets can become overloaded as parents try to use extension leads and adapters to power their decorations and presents, potentially creating a ticking time-bomb.
The common myth is that it is safe to use four appliances from one socket because they have the capability to, this is wrong and a dangerous myth to believe in. Different appliances require different amounts of power; to avoid the risk of overheating and possibly fire; you should never plug appliances into an extension lead or socket that together use more than 13 amps or 3000 watts of energy.
If you are unsure about how much power different appliances draw though different plug-sockets then you should visit Electrical Safety Council, where you can find a wealth of advice on how to make the best use of your sockets in the holidays. If you are curious to see which household appliances a four socketed extension cable can take try the Electrical Safety Council’s socket overload calculator below?
Recent research from YouGov suggests UK households will spend a total of £822 on Christmas this year, an increase of £54 from last year. As the gifts children receive are becoming more expensive and fragile the packaging and protection accompanying the items are becoming stronger and harder to open.
Taking care when opening presents is paramount, and you should avoid using anything but scissors if you find a particularly stubborn package – the NHS sees accidents from parents accidentally stabbing themselves with, blades, knives and screwdrivers which they’ve tried to use when opening gifts. Not only do people tend to stab themselves around Christmas but they also tend to trip over toys and electric cables left lying around the house.
As toys have become more innovative and accessible, the popularity of the toys that have the capabilities of flight and rapid movement have led to more injuries in the home. Remote control helicopters, even though small in size, can cause severe damage to a household and individual: cuts to the body and eyes are becoming more common in A&E.
These flying toys, if allowed to be operated inside, have the potential to break windows, decorations, televisions and your everyday household objects. If broken, a person might become injured by the toys as they might have to move quickly to avoid danger, resulting in a slip and potential broken bones and bruises.
Before you give your children toys that could potentially cause damage to your property please read the manufacturer’s instructions before use. If you do decide to allow your children to fly toys around the house ensure it is supervised, vulnerable items are moved and members of the household are informed of the activity.
Synonymous with Christmas, candles have been symbolic during religious holidays around the world since their creation. Candles used for religious, ambient or decorative purposes can be a hazard if left unwatched or in the reach of children.
With the increased use of candles throughout the holiday season it won’t be surprising to hear that half of the fires recorded in London in December will be due to a candle related incidents. Having a naked flame is exceptionally dangerous around the holidays as there are additional flammable objects littered throughout the home: tinsel, Christmas tree, tableware, etc… and a greater footfall increases the chance of a family member or friend accidentally coming into contact or knocking the flame in some way.
Battery operated candles have now become popular amongst parents with small children. Battery operated candles can often provide greater light without the heat and danger. For those that like the scent of a Christmas candle these can easy be replaced with a plug-in or standalone air fresher.
If your household is to use candles in some way shape or form these holidays make sure you read the following before you light the wick:
- Always use a heat resistant candle-holder
- Never burn a candle next to anything that can catch fire: blinds, paper, wall-paper, etc…
- Always keep a burning candle within the sight of an adult
- Never place a candle where a child or pet can reach or gain access to
- Trim wicks to ¼ inch each time before burning (Larger wicks cause uneven burning and dripping)
- Take care with votive or scented candles. These kinds of candles turn to liquid to release their fragrance, so put them in a glass or metal holder.
- Never allow the pool of wax to house wick trimmings, matches or debris
- Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions before use
- Never let the candle burn down to the end
- Never touch or attempt to move a hot or lit candle
- Place candles three inches from any objects and each other
- Make sure a candle is completely extinguished and the wick ember is no longer glowing before leaving the room.
- Never leave a candle to burn overnight or use one as a night light
- Always place a candle on a stable table
In the year 2000 alone, there were over 2,000 house fires in the UK due to candles. As a result, 10 people died and over 900 were injured. Keeping candles out of the house is the best way to protect your family and friends from accidental candle fires.
The kitchen is usually the hot bed of activity after the presents have been opened on Christmas day. Your kitchen will likely house dangerous objects that could cause serious injuries should they either get into the wrong hands or be handled incorrectly.
Sharp knives and meat carvers make a large contribution to the A&E figures with people of all ages experiencing cuts of all sizes and depths around the festive season. It is advisable to only keep out what you are using for your Christmas meal; once you have used the sharp objects place them in your sink, dishwasher, box or holder as soon as possible.
A significant portion of fires result from people getting distracted while cooking, and it’s not only the sharp objects that can be a danger to those in the house; boiling water, hot fat and slippery floors all contribute to the injuries caused when cooking the traditional family Christmas dinner.
The advice is to keep children out of the kitchen until the food is cooked and served, avoid alcohol until you have finished cooking and serving the food and clean/wipe up any spillages on any surfaces as soon as they happen.
Accidents are likely to happen in the kitchen and it pays to be prepared should the worst happen. If you haven’t done so already then you should have a first aid kit kept under the stairs or in the kitchen just in case of an accident.
The Christmas Dinner is renowned as one of the hardest meals of the year to cook, not only because you have to cater for your nearest and dearest, but also because you have to cook several different dishes in a short space of time.
Juggling the Christmas dinner can be considerably stressful for the chef responsible; ensuring that all the food is correctly cooked and ready at the same time can be a worry for those cooking. This Christmas, a whopping 10 million turkeys will be sold in the UK, weighing a massive 55,000 tonnes – that’s equivalent to more than 620,000 Santa’s weighing an average of 14 stone each!
The Christmas turkey is usually the food that is most worried about as incomplete cooking can led to people contracting salmonella poisoning, which can be life-threatening for vulnerable people.
The advice is to follow the cooking instructions of all the foods you cook over the festive holiday and thoroughly research the dishes you plan on making. The Food Safety Organisation have created this fantastic infographic telling you everything you need to know about selecting and cooking your turkey this Christmas:
Homes across the British Isles will be awash with tinsel, home-made paper chains, snow globes, religious armaments, plastic cut-outs of Santa and Christmas cards come the weeks running up to Christmas day. Commercial and home-made decorations can present tripping and choking hazards in your home if not put up correctly.
Children will often pick up and find the smallest of objects should they be left on the floor. For households with children it is strongly advisable to consider the decorations you put up this year. Even the glitter from the tree can attract the attention of the children, and so it is wise to remove all the smaller decorations that can pose a risk and either store them away until next year or move them out of reach of the children.
Decorations inside the home if not put up correctly can fall down and become a trip or strangulation hazard. Ensure you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines whenever possible and, when erecting home-made items, ensure that you use the right materials to guarantee the decorations are as secure as possible.
As mentioned previously, the common household decorations are extremely flammable and parents should be advised not to erect decorations in areas where candles are intended to be lit.
Over the holiday season people can be encouraged to go the extra mile when decorating their homes. Windows are often an area of decoration which families tend to focus on decorating, with fake snow, fairy lights and hanging decoration being used to create a great spectacle for the world to see.
It is ill-advised to use your hand operated curtain rail and or blinds to hold or tie your decorations onto. Attaching decorations can comprise the function of the coverings and damage their foundations. Blinds and curtain poles are not manufactured to hold excess weight and if used for that purpose can become loose from their original fittings. Comprising the fittings could cause the covering to come out of place and fall, which is not something you would want to happen should you have children and friends close by.
Not only can decorations break and comprise window coverings, but they can also attract children to play and climb around windowsills. Loosely hanging blind cords can become a risk to children should they become caught up the blind cord; blind cord strangulation and deaths is a real concern in the UK with the RoSPA reporting that there have been 27 deaths across the UK since 1999.
Removing the temptation to play near windows and investing in a blind cord safety clip should be enough to protect the children in your home over the holiday season against blind cords.
For more information on blind cord safety please visit Roman Blinds Direct for our Blind Cord Safety Guide.
Clutter (Trip hazards)
Your home will likely be scattered with presents, furniture and toys over Christmas. With less space in your home than usual, taken up by your tree and decorations, you might look to store items in places you usually wouldn’t, such as on the stairs.
The stairs can often become littered with a wide variety of objects around Christmas, making your stairs a potential hotspot for danger. Considering that your family and friends will likely be tired and would possibly have had something to drink, having your stairs littered with gifts is not a good idea.
Keep your stairs clutter free by clearing up objects after they have been used. This is a family effort and parents should remind their children about the dangers of leaving gifts housed in places that they shouldn’t.
Regardless of how much you plan for Christmas, you can never be prepared for the unexpected, so don’t leave fire safety down to chance. You should have at least one smoke alarm installed on all levels of your home.
The Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service recommends that “all households should test their smoke alarms once a week”.
They also recommend that all parents should avoid removing batteries from fire alarms to power presents over the holiday season. In recent years this has become a more common problem as more and more toys require power and batteries have become more expensive. Parents can forget to purchase batteries before the big day and then feel bad for their child that is at a loss on Christmas day.
The advice is to always stock spare batteries in your home, not only will they come in handy over the holiday period but they will also prove handy in an emergency should the power go out and you need a torch!
For more information on how to install and test a smoke alarm watch this short video and or visit the National Fire Protection Associations website for more information:
Once the holiday season is over households across the world will be taking down their beloved decorations and putting them into storage for next year. Like the debate around when to erect the Christmas tree in the home, the taking down of decorations is also widely debated topic in the UK. In the UK decorations tend to be taken down between the 1st and 6th of January!
During the festivities it is inevitable that something will get damaged or be broken and end up as being unable to be used again. Many of the decorations that households have become accustomed to are fragile – tinsel, baubles, plants and even the trees will take a good battering.
As well as the usual broken fairy lights and tinsel, as a nation we tend to waste a significant amount of food as we overindulge on the finer things in life which we wouldn’t usually consume throughout the year.
With a considerable amount of excess waste collected over Christmas, families can play their part by recycling many of the items they throw away. We have put together a list of ways you can reuse or recycle those leftovers or wasted items once the holiday season is over:
Clothes are a popular gift to give and receive over Christmas for all member of a family, young and old. Once a household has received an influx of new clothing it is usually the case that older clothes, usually ones in good condition, will become neglected, thrown away or tucked in the back of a cupboard or wardrobe never to be seen again.
Parents should take it upon themselves to identify these items of unwanted and unused clothing in their household and donate them to a local charity shop or national clothing initiative. Not only can households make a difference by donating old clothes but they can, if they choose, get money for donating their old clothes by contacting local cash-for-clothes schemes.
Local cash-for-clothes schemes will usually arrange a day and time to come to your home and collect and weigh your bags. The business will give you cash for the weight of what you donate, and should you have a significant amount of clothing you can make a little bit of cash which you can keep or donate to another charity.
Households should also consider using the fabric from their old clothes to create new clothes and accessories: head bands, hair ties, bracelets, slippers, belts, etc… winter accessories like hats, scarf’s and mittens, patches, toys, book covers, pictures frames and other fantastic items.
For more information on how to reuse clothes to create some of the above items, check here.
According to the Greeting Card Association, people in the UK send around one billion Christmas cards every year. Though Christmas cards are lovely to receive, you probably won’t want to hold on to them all year.
Cards can take up a considerable amount of space on household surfaces. Households can dispose of their cards by adding them to their paper and cardboard waste collection (blue collection bins), find card collection bins in shops and out in the local community, or use the cards to create Christmas tags for next year.
Reusing the Christmas cards you have received is a great way of recycling the cards and saving money. We have found this fantastic video that talks you though, step by step, how to create fantastic Christmas tags:
Real trees are recyclable but artificial ones are not. Local councils often arrange special collections of ‘real’ Christmas tree in early January. You can find out when and if your council are collecting trees in your area by visiting the Recycle Now website and typing in your postcode.
For those of you curious about what happens to those trees once they have been collected then you should know that they usually shredded into chippings which can then be used locally in parks or woodland areas. Also other local charities and organisations use them for mulch, erosion protection, habitat creation and shoreline stabilization.
For those of you that have damaged or unwanted plastic trees you will only be able to dispose of them at your local waste disposal centre. Opening times of waste centres differ throughout the country and the holiday season so, to find out when your centre will be open in January, please visit your local authority’s website for more details.
It is almost inevitable that someone in every household this year will receive one or two gifts they aren’t particularly fond of. If you have presents that are unwanted you can do several things:
- You can donate them to local charity shops
- You could give them to friends, family, neighbours, schools or local community projects
- You could also sell the gifts on to others or look into present exchanges
- You could even ask for the receipt and exchange the gift online or in-store – many stores will offer a product exchange without the receipt!
You might be surprised to hear that you can recycle wrapping paper through your local council. You will find that several councils will send you advice on how and where to recycle paper, and if you haven’t received anything through the post or via email don’t worry. You can get onto their website to find where and how you can drop off used wrapping paper.
Households can also reuse wrapping paper for next year, neatly folding leftover paper and storing it flat in a box will ensure it keeps thought to next Christmas. For those that are a little more adventurous why not consider trying the Japanese Furoshiki style of present wrapping to eradicate the use of wrapping paper at Christmas:
Gift bags have become a popular way of gifting presents as they are cheap, easy to get hold of and stress free, unlike wrapping paper. Households should not be afraid to reuse and pass on gift bags, for those that are a little damaged consider recycling them through your local council or using the material to create more gift tags!
Chances are you’ll have quite a few leftovers from the Christmas period and, if they can’t be made into a soup or frozen, you can either take them to your local Food Bank, your local food waste collection scheme or consider adding the scraps to your compost pile.
Composting is a fantastic way to recycle your food, not only does it reduce household waste but it provides a household with free fertiliser. If you wish to find out more information on how and why you should compost, use this How to Compost Guide to get started.
Christmas Lights & Electronics
Resource.uk advice parents not to throw broken lights away with the general waste. Lights and electrical products can be recycled through the Household Waste Recycling Centres throughout the country. Councils may also run a kerbside WEEE collection service. Check with you local authority for more details.
For more information on recycling collection points and what you can recycle, either contact your local authority or enter your postcode into www.recyclenow.com.