Merry and Bright - and Safe
Fire and light safety tips for the holiday season
The holiday season is a special time of year but one that has greater safety risks than usual. The dry evergreen tree, those candles and electric lights you use to decorate or set the holiday mood, or the cosy fire you have blazing in the fireplace can all be fire hazards.
Here are some precautions you can take to prevent fires and help you and your family stay safe to enjoy the festivities of the season.
Decorative electric lights
- Use lights and extension cords that are in good condition and that have been certified by a recognized organization - the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC or cUL).
- Inspect cords and lights for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets/plugs, excessive kinking or wear. Check the cords periodically when they have been on for a while; they should not feel warm. If you find any of these signs, replace with an approved (CSA, ULC or cUL) product, or don't use.
- Never remove the ground pin, or file the wide peg of the plug, as this interferes with the electrical grounding.
- Never put extension cords through doorways or under carpets.
- Do not leave holiday lights on unattended. Turn off the lights when you leave work, and at home, turn them off when you are asleep or away.
- Follow the manufacturers' instructions about how many sets of lights that can be strung (plugged in) together. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet (safer than working with a plugged in extension cord that is conducting electricity).
- Do not overload electrical outlets.
- Use only indoor lights and extension cords indoors, and outdoor lights and cords outdoors.
- Use mini or LED lights - they have cool-burning lights, and LED lights use less electricity.
Candles and oil lamps
- Place lit candles in stable holders (not wood or plastic) that cannot burn and are large enough to collect dripping wax. Place them where they cannot be easily knocked down.
- Trim candle wicks to a height of 5-7 mm (1/4 inch) before lighting the candle and again every 2-3 hours to prevent high flames.
- Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame - candles, lighters or matches, and never use lit candles on live or artificial trees.
- Keep burning candles one metre away from anything that can burn (e.g. papers, cloth, or drapes).
- Never leave a candle unattended. Extinguish it before you leave the room.
- Keep burning candles out of reach of children and pets.
- Avoid using decorative oil lamps with liquid fuel (usually poisonous) if you have young children in your household. If you do use them, keep the fuel locked away out of reach of children.
Keeping it real - the Christmas tree
- Cut trees become dry quickly and most will last about 14 days. If you are decorating a live tree for the workplace, you may want to take it down before people leave for holidays.
- When buying a live tree, give it a shake. Needles will fall if the tree is dry because it was cut too long ago. Pick a tree that does not lose its needles and with a trunk that is sticky to the touch.
- Cut 2 to 5 centimetres from the trunk of the tree to encourage the tree to drink more water.
- Water the tree. Ideally, it should have a sturdy stand that holds about 4 litres of water. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
- Use a preservative in the water. If you are concerned about small children or pets drinking the water, use a small amount of sugar instead.
- Keep the tree away from heating vents or registers, fireplaces, high traffic areas, and exits so it won't dry out prematurely. As well, try to position the tree so you do not have to use long extension cords.
- Buy only decorations and artificial trees that are non-flammable or flame resistant.
- Do not use angel hair (glass wool) together with spray-on snowflakes. This combination burns very easily.
- Do not use metallic ornaments on the tree. If they make contact with defective wiring they could become a shock hazard.
- Do not use nails, tacks, or staples to hang cords and lights. They can damage the wire, cause corrosion, or create a short circuit.
Fireplaces and wood stoves
- Always use a secure screen in front of your fireplace.
- Have the chimney cleaned at least once a year to prevent chimney fires.
- Burn hardwood which will leave less creosote in the chimney.
- If using firelogs, follow the manufacturer's instructions and burn only one log at a time.
- Never burn wrapping paper in a fireplace. It can create a very large fire, with dangerous sparks and embers that could cause a chimney fire.
- Make sure the fire is out before going to bed or before going out.
- Ensure that the chimney is drawing well so that wood smoke does not come into the room.
- Keep children away from gas fireplaces. When in use, the glass doors can become hot enough to cause serious burns.
General fire safety tips
- Do not leave cooking food unattended on a stove.
- Keep cooking areas free of flammable objects (such as potholders and towels) and avoid wearing long, loose-fitting sleeves that could ignite over the stove burner when cooking.
- Never smoke in bed or leave burning cigarettes unattended. Do not empty smoldering ashes in a trash can.
- Keep portable space heaters away from anything that could catch fire such as the drapes or slip covers.
- Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of the home, including the basement, especially near rooms in which people sleep. Test them once a month, and replace batteries twice a year.
Have a safe, healthy and happy holiday.
Holiday Safety Tips, CCOHS OSH Answers
Fire and Light Safety, Health Canada
A Season for Sharing in Fire Safety, U.S. Fire Administration
Fire Candle Fact Sheet, American Red Cross
Sleigh Bells Ring - or Else
For those of you who may be out and about on your sleigh this holiday season, it is important to remember that in Ontario, you must follow the law:
The Ontario Highway Traffic Act Section 77 Sleigh bells
77. (1) Every person travelling on a highway with a sleigh or sled drawn by a horse or other animal shall have at least two bells attached to the harness or to the sleigh or sled in such a manner as to give ample warning sound.
(2) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $5.
New Fishing Safety Association for Nova Scotia
In an effort to make the fishing industry safer, Nova Scotia is establishing a fishing safety association dedicated to reducing workplace injuries and workers' compensation rates for the industry. The Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia will be up and running in January 2010.
The safety association will be comprised of individuals/firms from the harvesting, processing, aquaculture and/or services sectors registered with the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) of Nova Scotia. The safety association will focus its effort on promoting safe work practices, improving safety, making the industry more attractive for new employees and keeping the existing employees safe and healthy. It is expected that the association's work will result in reducing accidents/injuries, along with workers' compensation rates for the fishing industry, and will help cultivate a safety culture in the fishing industry.
The WCB cites fishing as one of the most dangerous occupations in the province, and is encouraging workers and employers to take every precaution to prevent injuries to ensure everyone in the fishing industry comes home safely from work.
The province's fishing industry continues to be impacted by workplace injuries. In 2008, there were 421 fishing industry injuries, 172 of which were serious enough that the workers lost time from work. Tragically eight people died on the job in the fishing industry last year.
While injuries related to weather, conditions at sea and overloaded boats are often serious and tragic, sprains and strains are common and financially costly. These injuries are caused by hazards associated with the way work is designed and carried out such as lifting heavy loads.
Premiums paid by fishing industry employers for workplace injury insurance are among the highest in Nova Scotia - a direct result of the number and severity of injuries in the fishing sector.
"Safety associations in the forestry and construction industries have been very successful in lowering the rate of workplace injuries, and over time, the WCB premiums paid by employers in those sectors," said Stuart MacLean, WCB's Vice President of Service Delivery. "Our goal is for the fishing industry to experience similar improvements in injury prevention so far fewer workers and their families will experience the devastating impact of workplace injury."
Lifting and Stretching - Spread the Word
New CCOHS ergonomics posters
If your work involves lifting, you are likely at some risk for injury, especially to your lower back. In fact, lifting is the most common cause of low back pain at work in Canada.
The latest poster from CCOHS, Pick Up Tips, illustrates preparation, planning, and proper lifting methods. Displayed wherever workers may be lifting objects, it can be a helpful reminder for workers and help them protect themselves from injury.
A second ergonomics poster, Tension Relief - It's a Stretch, illustrates stretching exercises you can do at your desk or in a chair. It will be released in January 2010.
All CCOHS posters are double-sided, with English on one side and French on the other. They are available as free PDF downloads, or for purchase as glossy 16"X 25" prints.
Changes for the Better
You may have noticed that the Health and Safety Report is sporting a new look this month. And it's not just a facelift! We made some changes based on the feedback that you, our readers provided. Look for a wider variety of article topics; print an individual article instead of the entire issue, in a printer friendly format (and save some printer ink); and for easy reference, check out the quick links to some helpful, free resources in the sidebar.
We've also made it easy for you to contact us here at the Health and Safety Report to share your comments, suggestions and story ideas. Just go to "Tell us what you think" to email the Editor directly.
We hope you find the Health and Safety Report easier to read and use. We will continue to work to deliver advice and information you need to work safely and create healthy workplaces.
Thank you for your continued interest in the Report, and here's to working together for positive change, so that all may come home safely from work.
Editor, Health and Safety Report
The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2009, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety