Avoid these holiday hazards for a merry season

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View our list of holiday hazards to avoid this year


This holiday season will look a bit different from last year. Families from afar won’t be gathering. Celebrations will be smaller. No holiday parties (if you’re wise). And definitely skip the mall where it’s impossible to keep your six-foot distance.

The excitement of the holiday can also mean that, in our rush to get everything accomplished and wrapped on time, we’re more likely to ignore certain warning signs or hazards. It’s the holidays! Nothing can go wrong…right?

Even though many of us are working from home, chances are our workload has increased with all the projects that must be completed by year-end. This added busy-ness can be a recipe for disaster. Thus every winter there’s a rise in injuries and fatalities caused by decorating, cooking, fires and car crashes.

Review these tips from Safestart – and share them with your insurance clients. They can help you prepare for the holiday season, ensuring that you and your loved ones welcome the New Year safe and healthy (although probably a pound or two heavier!)


Skip these holiday hazards while decorating

Did you know that in the last two months of the year, about 200 merry-makers daily suffer decorating-related injuries? Hanging lights on the house (yes, you, Clark Griswold), cutting down and setting up a tree, adding the star on top…all cause injuries in the form of pulled muscles, fractures, electrical shock and even concussions. Most of these are ladder-related. To skip these hazards,

  • Don’t climb on furniture. Be sure you’re stepping on a stable surface. Use a stool or ladder.
  • Be careful where you place that ladder – not on area rugs or slippery surfaces.
  • Before you climb, clean up the area round your ladder. This will help prevent additional injuries (think of the edges of that star tree-topper).
  • Work in pairs if possible, especially if you’re climbing high.
  • Stay off that ladder or any other high place if you’re under the influence.

Specific holiday hazards for lights

  • Be sure your lights have a UL safety certification.
  • Never touch any electrical wiring when you’re wet.
  • LED holiday lights use less electricity and create less heat, so they’re safer to use.
  • Using strings of lights from previous years? Check them to ensure they’re not frayed or torn. Don’t assume that, because they worked safely last year, they’ll be ok this year.
  • Don’t overload sockets.
  • Have a metallic tree? Do not add lights.
  • Always unplug your lights at night or when you’ll be away from home.
Related: How to achieve work/life balance during the holidays


Avoid kitchen and food mishaps

Frying the turkey. Prepping dishes days ahead of time. Having too many cooks in the kitchen…and not enough time. All can be recipes for disaster. Avoid those mishaps with these common-sense tips:

  • Like Mom always said, wash your hands before you handle food. Handling raw meat? Wash during and after as well.
  • Thaw your turkey in the fridge or in a sink full of cold water, not warm. And not on the countertop.
  • Keep your poultry, meats, seafood and egg dishes separate from other prep stations and in the fridge. That includes using separate cutting boards.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure meat is fully cooked.
  • Refrigerate foods within two hours of cooking
  • Your leftovers are safe to eat for four days when stored in the fridge.
  • Keep cleaning products away from food. Safestart says every year someone mistakes Pine Sol® for cooking oil.
  • Keep floors clean and dry, so no one slips holding the turkey or a hot pan of gravy.
  • Take your time and don’t get distracted while carving that bird. You know what can happen!


Prevent an out-of-bounds fire

Candles…fireplaces…heaters…kitchen…electrical fires. Christmas trees and decorations alone account for nearly 2,000 fires each year, says Safestart. Fires in bounds (in the fireplace, or a nicely lit candle) are wonderful. To prevent other fires,

  • Always have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and another nearby.
  • Don’t leave any open flame unattended.
  • Don’t leave your stove or oven (or other cooking equipment) unattended.
  • Be sure candles are in sturdy holders to prevent them from being knocked over.
  • Don’t use real candles on your tree – ever.
  • If your tree is real, be sure to keep it hydrated. And move it away from any heat source.
  • If you use heaters for an extra heat source, make sure they’re in safe working condition.
  • Don’t try to burn your dried-out tree or even any branches in the fireplace. Same goes for wrapping paper. It will spark immediately and could cause your fire to go out of control.
Related: Juggling Jingle Bells: Tips to Manage Holiday Stress for Insurance Producers


Sidestep these pet holiday hazards

So many of our holiday foods and decorations are dangerous to your pets, so be sure to

  • Keep tinsel, ribbon, potpourri, essential oils away from pets.
  • Show off your snow globes from a high surface. Safestart says some may contain antifreeze.
  • Display poinsettias, mistletoe, holly, lilies and Christmas cacti up high, out of reach.
  • Don’t allow pets access to:
    • chocolate or cocoa
    • candy and other products with xylitol (including some types of peanut butter)
    • macadamia nuts
    • yeast bread dough
    • grapes, currants or raisins
    • onions or garlic
    • leftover fatty meat scraps
    • alcohol, including fruit cakes soaked in rum
Related: Holiday hazards and safety tips [infographic]


Dodge these holiday travel hazards

If you’ve decided to travel by car to visit family this year, observe these pointers:

  • Don’t travel alone if possible.
  • Keep your cellphone charged; only use it when you’re stopped.
  • Check road conditions before you start out.
  • Adjust your speed to road conditions. Don’t be in a hurry. Avoid using cruise control on winding roads or roads that may be slippery.
  • If traveling in frigid weather, be sure to have a safety kit: blanket, water, food, mats to help your tires out of slick snow. Also a flashlight, batteries, first aid kit, ice scraper, small shovel, road flares and jumper cables. You’ll need on hand a heavy coat, gloves and boots.
  • Ensure you have a full tank of gas, your tires and brakes are in good working condition, and your car is tuned up.
  • Let someone know when you leave; update them as to your status on the road; let them know when you should arrive.

Have a safe and merry holiday season from all of us at Arrowhead!


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