Barrow Shares Safety Tips for Removing Holiday Decorations

Barrow Neurological Institute is urging the public to be cautious while taking down their holiday decorations. Falls from ladders and other holiday-related accidents are common and can be deadly or cause debilitating brain and spinal cord injuries.

“Holiday decorating is fun and festive, but it’s important to keep safety in mind at all times,” says Javier Cárdenas, MD, a neurologist and the director of the Barrow Concussion and Brain Injury Center. “I’ve treated patients who suffer traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries as a result of falls while stringing holiday lights or hanging decorations.”

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that there were 18,400 holiday decorating-related injuries nationwide resulting in emergency room visits from November 2016 through January 2017. The most frequent incidents involved falls (38 percent), lacerations (14 percent), and strains or sprains (18 percent). Two deaths were attributed to ladder falls. It’s estimated there are approximately 250 decorating-related injuries a day during the holiday season.

Holiday falls aren’t limited to tumbles from outdoor ladders and roofs. Decorators may be tempted to stand on a chair to reach the top of the Christmas tree, but even that can result in a serious injury.

“Hanging holiday lights brightens the season, but we urge people to do it safely,” says Laura Snyder, MD, a spine neurosurgeon at Barrow. “When we’re celebrating, we don’t always think about safety. One poor decision can have lifelong consequences.

Safety Tips

  1. Don’t climb alone. Never climb a ladder to remove lights or ornaments without someone to watch or help. Remember: only one person at a time on a ladder unless the ladder is specifically designed for two people.
  2. Don’t drink and remove decorations.
  3. Be firm. Set up the ladder so that it’s on a firm, secure, and level foundation. Avoid slippery surfaces. Space the base of the ladder one foot away from the wall for every four feet of ladder height. Check that the ladder is in good working condition, with no loose or missing parts.
  4. Take your time. Never rush while removing holiday lights and decorations. The faster you go, the more likely you are to overlook simple safety rules that can prevent a serious injury.
  5. Be afraid of heights. Don’t stand above the fourth rung from the top of an extension ladder or three rungs from the top of a stepladder.
  6. Be aware of children. Keep kids away from ladders.
  7. Don’t slip. Wear shoes with non-slip soles. Running shoes are a good choice. Keep the steps and rungs of the ladder free of water and slippery materials.
  8. Avoid furniture. Avoid standing on chairs, couches, or other furniture when hanging holiday decorations. Always use the proper stepstool or stepladder.
  9. Lock it open. Always open a stepladder completely and make sure the spreader is locked open before using the ladder.
  10. Practice the 3-Point Rule. Always have three points of contact while on the ladder (two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand). Grip the rungs to climb – not the side rails.