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Christmas is less than a week away. People are finishing their rehearsals of Christmas carols, completing their Christmas decorations, and finding the last (or, in some cases, the first) of their Christmas gifts.

Common Outdoor Christmas Hazards

Christmas is less than a week away. People are finishing their rehearsals of Christmas carols, completing their Christmas decorations, and finding the last (or, in some cases, the first) of their Christmas gifts. The overwhelming majority of people celebrating the holiday will pass the season without incident. For a few, unfortunately, Christmas will bring preventable injury or even tragedy.

The most serious accidental injuries this time of year usually occur outdoors

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Auto crashes. Especially in the United States, December is prime time for car crashes. People who drink little or nothing at all during the year imbibe alcohol for the holidays, and misjudge their sobriety behind the wheel. There is nothing you can do about other drivers, but you can stay alert to drunk drivers, especially after midnight, when the effects of alcohol combine with sleep deprivation.

Snow and ice.
In most of the United States and Europe, Christmas is usually free of snow and ice, although 2010 is shaping up to be an exception to the rule. If Christmastime is the only time you use skates or skis, at least make sure you are well padded before you take to the rinks or the slopes. And don't get in such a hurry to get to your car over icy sidewalks with armloads of gifts that you take a nasty spill.

Ladders. Last year in the UK, which has 1/6 of the population of the US, over 5,700 people were injured in falls from ladders. It is not unreasonable to assume that tens of thousands of people are injured every year in falls from ladders around the world. The important things to remember about safety on ladders are:

  • Make sure the ladder you use is rated to support your weight. If you weigh more than 250 pounds (115 kilos), you will need an “industrial strength” ladder. If you buy your ladder in the United States, it should be marked with the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) seal of approval.
  • Place the base of your ladder on a stable surface with both legs firmly on the floor or ground.
  • Secure tall ladders with lashing or cables.
  • Always face the ladder going up or coming down.
  • Keep both feet on the ladder. Never put one foot on the ladder and the other foot on another surface.
  • Never stand on the top shelf of a ladder.
  • If you are wearing a belt, make sure the buckle does not get caught in a rung.
  • If you working with lights, use a ladder made of wood or fiberglass, not metal.


Continue reading after recommendations

  • Phillips DP, Jarvinen JR, Abramson IS, Phillips RR. Cardiac mortality is higher around Christmas and New Year's than at any other time: the holidays as a risk factor for death. Circulation. 2004 Dec 21, 110(25):3781-8. Epub 2004 Dec 13
  • Photo courtesy of Craig Maash on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/craigmaas/301982133/