Keeping safe is all about identifying potential hazards (things that could hurt someone) then, taking some action to ensure no problems arise. In December, people are extremely distracted making hazard identification virtually impossible. The purpose of this blog is to help point out some potential “inside hazards” now that I know you’re all safe from the “outside hazards” identified in the last segment.
Potential inside hazards include issues with fire, slips, trips, and falls, electrical, toxic vapors, and potential food poisoning. I’m sure everyone knows what I’m about to share, but just in case even one person needs to know, here goes.
Fire is a major concern during the holidays. It only takes three things to start one: (1) fuel, (2) a source of ignition, and (3) oxygen. The Christmas tree you purchased after Thanksgiving was cut down in the forest or tree farm about a month prior to that. The dryer the tree becomes, the more it changes from your indoor decoration to fuel. If you place it near a heater, or keep your home too warm, it will dry out even faster. Make sure you trim about one inch from the bottom of the tree so it will absorb water, and keep the stand filled to get the best results. The fresher the tree, the harder it is for a fire to start.
Tree lights and ornaments can also generate heat. Large bulbs are of more concern than twinkle lights. Some people carry on the tradition of using the lights their parents used. Those lights are much less safe than new ones from today. Always inspect to make sure lights are in good working condition. One old tradition was to have actual lighted candles on the tree. Remember, fuel, oxygen, and a source of ignition is all it takes. An open flame on your tree is asking for trouble. . . tradition or not!
When the holiday is over, do not try to burn the tree in your fireplace. Most chimneys are not designed to handle the immense amount of heat your old tree will create. Instead, take it outside, and pay a boyscout or someone to bring it somewhere it can be burned safely or turned into mulch. When I do “Holiday Safety” training for Clients, I show a film where a Christmas tree catches fire and fully engulfs a living room in less than 60 seconds! Make sure your fire extinguisher is in good working condition and easily accessible.
Slips, Trips, and Falls can occur in a number of ways. Decorations, presents, electrical cords, and simple clutter can potentially cause a trip problem. Spilled powders and liquids during the cooking or baking process associated with holidays can be a slip problem if not wiped up immediately. Falls can happen as a result of ignoring ladder safety and the belt buckle rule explained last time, or by standing on a chair with wheels to place a decoration somewhere. There will be thousands of people ignoring these common sense notions, and finding themselves in an emergency room as a result. It doesn’t have to be that way!!
Electrical hazards can be created in a number of ways. Some people rip the third prong of the extension cord off so it can be used in a receptacle with only two slots. Simple adapters exist (2 prongs with a green wire to attach to the screw holding the plate cover) to allow you to not change the integrity of the cord, and still plug it in. Most living room circuits are rated at 15 amps. When decorations etc. request more than 15 amps, the extra power will come, heating up the wiring as the electrons seek a path to ground. If your decorations blow fuses, don’t just get bigger fuses. They blow for a reason!! You are just asking for more amps than the wire can safely handle. This fire can start by simply plugging in a vacuum while all the inside tree lights and decorations are lit. Check the condition of decoration cords, keep them tucked out of the way to avoid trips, vacuum with the inside lights turned off, and don’t overload the circuits.
We don’t think about the potential to be exposed to toxic vapors around the holidays, but there are two potential hazards to be discussed. When cleaning, we should never mix products. For example, mixing a chlorine based cleaner (Comet) with an ammonia based cleaner (Windex) will create chlorimine gas which could substantially injure or kill someone. Use all products as specified by the Manufacturer, NO MORE and NO LESS. If the product doesn’t do what you need, get a different one and follow the instructions provided. Even chemists have a hard time knowing the result of mixing two products together.
Our second exposure to toxic vapors may come when presents are opened. People enjoy the pretty colors when wrapping paper is tossed into the fire and burned. The problem is that the pretty paper has glues, and inks that could become toxic as the paper burns. Vapors coming into the house instead of going up the chimney could be a problem especially for the youngsters who need a close look. Simply dispose the pretty paper in the trash, and the potential problem is solved.
Finally, I know everyone knows about putting food away and proper cooking. Still, I also know many people suffer from food poisoning on holidays. Do more rather than less this holiday to ensure the safety of your loved ones. Use thermometers to know the meat or fish has reached the proper temperature. It all sounds simple, but statistics say we can all work harder to keep holiday accidents and injuries down. Re-heating food in “Styrofoam Containers” can make people sick, because bacteria on the container might not reach a proper temperature to render it safe for consumption.
I wish all of you SAFE HOLIDAYS, and remember, Safety is NOT what we talk about, it’s what you actually DO.