Injuries take the joy out of holiday decorating

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas - -- 'Tis the season to adorn the home with holiday lights and decorations, but although it's a time for joy, unsafe practices can land you in the hospital instead of around the Christmas tree.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports about 12,500 people are taken to emergency rooms each year due for injuries -- falls, cuts and shocks -- related to holiday decorating. The following are tips to use while dressing up the house and yard.

GRABBING THE TOOLS

· Ladder: It is in good condition? Does it wobble while on a flat surface? Are the steps securely fastened to the legs? Are there any cracks? If it's a metal ladder, are there rubber, non-skid feet?

· Hammer: Is the hammer head securely connected? If it's a wood hammer, is it splintering? If there is grip on the handle, is it unraveling or decaying?

· Screwdriver: Do the heads look stripped, worn or have soft edges? Is the tool and handle all in one, or if not, is the pieced tool a tight combination?

· Staple-gun: Rule number one, don't point it at anyone. Also check to see if it's in good condition by doing a few test runs on scrap wood. This prevents being in an awkward position and trying to fix it on the spot.

· Jackhammer: If you're doing any holiday decorating that requires this tool then this article won't help.

· All tools: The basic rule of thumb for all tools is that they are used for their intended purpose. If there is doubt about how to use the tool properly, then don't be so prideful that you don't ask someone. The alternative could cause injury.

LET'S LIGHT THE PLACE UP

· Only use lights tested by a recognized testing laboratory such as UL.
· Only use lights with fused plugs.
· Check each set -- new and old -- for broken or cracked sockets.
· Check each set for frayed or bare wires.
· Check for loose connections.
· Only use the appropriate bulb wattage and size replacement.
· No more than three standard size sets per single extension cord.
· Ensure the extension cord has no frays or bare wires, and the connections aren't loose.
· Ensure extension cords are specific for outdoor use.
· Putting a metal tree in the yard? Do not use electric lights!
· Check the tags and labels on the lights to make sure they are for outdoor use.
· Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into older homes.
· Fasten outdoor lights securely for protection from wind damage.
· Use only insulated staples and not nails or tacks. Hooks are a viable option.
· Turn off lights when you go to bed or leave the house.
· Use caution when removing outdoor lights. Do not pull or tug on strings.
· Lights should be plugged into outlets that are protected by ground fault circuit interrupters.

DRESSING UP THE YARD.

· The number one consideration is that all yard decorations are tagged for outdoor use.
· Keep the walkway free and clear of decorations that hang, droop or could fall into the path.
· Ensure the path is well lit for people coming up the walkway.
· Secure electrical items so they're not pulled by the weather which can create bare wires, and a possible catastrophe.
· Clear away tripping hazards for people who may walk into the area -- carolers, burglars, the pets.
· Hanging a real wreath? Be careful of decorating it with real food because that could create some animal issues.

CASE STUDY: Trapped in the Holiday Spirit

One December day around 1 p.m., an Airman was preparing to set up Christmas lights on the roof of his house. He placed the ladder next to rooftop and ascended while carrying the lights. As he reached the top step of the ladder, he stepped off towards rooftop. As he was stepping off, he pushed down on the top rail, lost his balance and fell eight feet to the ground. He was transported to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a torn trapezius muscle and assigned two day's quarters and 10 days light duty. Bottom line: Following correct ladder safety procedures will keep you from singing, "Fall La La La La," and enable you to enjoy your holiday decorations, and celebrate with family and friends.