08 Dec 2020

Personal Injury

‘Tis the season to be merry… and careful!

After the year we’ve all had, we’re all looking forward to the chance to relax, spend time with loved ones and celebrate the festive season, but although it is a magical time, there are lots of hidden dangers around Christmas that can lead to accidents in the home. According to RoSPA, more than 80,000 people go to A&E each year for Christmas-related injuries and over 6,000 of these need to be admitted.

With decorations, fires, new toys, guests, cooking and houses packed with over-excited children and animals all presenting a lot of potential hazards, Victoria Smithyman, a senior associate solicitor in our personal injury department, has prepared 10 top tips for keeping you and your family safe this holiday season. After all, nothing puts a dampener on Christmas cheer like a trip to A&E!

1. Your Christmas tree is a fire risk, even if it’s fake

To avoid any accidents, you should keep your tree at least three feet away from all heat sources including fireplaces and radiators. If you have a real tree, keep it watered as the drier the tree, the easier it could ignite, and choose a sturdy stand so that is doesn’t tip over. Also keep Christmas cards and decorations away from lights, heaters and fires.

2. Don’t overdo the Christmas lights

It’s very tempting at this time of year to cover each inch of your house with sparkly fairy lights but you may have to scale back, depending on the power outlet of each set and how many plug sockets you have. If you’re digging your old lights out of the attic, check the wires to make sure there are no signs of fraying or cracking and always check they conform to the British Safety Standard. Also, while it’s nice to be able to see your tree twinkling in the window when you come home, you should always unplug all indoor lights whenever you leave the house.

3. Be careful when decorating the tree

RoSPA revealed more than 1,000 people each year are hurt while decorating their Christmas tree, usually when using unstable chairs or stools to fix decorations to the highest branches. And 1 in 50 people fall from the loft when getting the decorations down.

4. Beware of open flames

Candles are perfect for setting a lovely Christmas glow but did you know that December is the peak time of year for candle-related house fires? You should keep lit candles at least 30cm away from any surrounding objects and trim the wicks before you light them. Always blow out candles before going to bed and check all your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are working.

5. Don’t leave cooking unattended

With presents to open and guests to entertain, it can be all too easy to forget about the sprouts boiling dry on the hob or the turkey burning to a crisp in the oven. More than half of accidental fires at home are started by cooking, often when grills and ovens are left unattended or when tea towels or cloths are left too close to the hob.

6. Kitchen injuries

At Christmas, the kitchen tends to be the busiest room in the house with lots of hustle and bustle as the dinner is prepared. Hot food, boiling water and sharp knives can make the kitchen particularly hazardous. Take care when chopping the veg, avoid splashes of hot fat and be careful not to spill anything on the floor as this can lead to slips and falls. Make sure all pan handles are facing inwards so they don’t get knocked over and be careful of burns when taking hot items out of the oven.

7. Don’t poison your guests!

There are an estimated one million cases of food poisoning in the UK every year and this doesn’t take a break for the Christmas holidays. When preparing your Christmas feast, think about food hygiene. Thoroughly wash all surfaces and utensils after handling raw meat and if you are re-heating any food, make sure they are heated to a minimum of 74 degrees Celsius. Undercooked turkey can cause salmonella, which can be life-threatening, especially for those who are very young, old or frail. And if any food has been left out on the table for more than two hours, bin it.

8. Watch you don’t fall…

Falls are the most common type of accident in the home at the best of times so just imagine how much the risk increases at Christmas when all the clutter of presents, wrapping and decorations is added into the mix. Keep walkways and stairwells clear and well lit, particularly if you have guests who are unfamiliar with the layout of the house, and avoid creating any trip hazards with fairy light wires.

9. Beware of faulty toys

When choosing toys as gifts for children, only buy those with a CE Mark and those which comply with the British and European Toy Safety Standards. Make sure it is suitable for the child’s age- and keep an eye out for any small parts that could cause a child to choke. When opening the toys and getting them set up, make sure you have the necessary scissors and screwdrivers as many injuries occur on Christmas Day with people battling to open difficult packaging as quickly as possible.

10. Drink responsibly

Christmas may well be the time to eat, drink and be merry but drinking too much, too quickly, on a single occasion can increase your risk of accidents, often resulting in injury. Try to drink slowly and with food, alternate your alcoholic drinks with water or soft drinks and plan ahead to make sure you can get home safely. Never drink and drive.

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