Christmas tree fire
This is why it's so important to check your Christmas lights – see our advice below
Christmas is a time when your home is likely to be full of people, and it's in the excitement of the season that accidents can easily happen.
But one of the good things about Christmas is that there are typically more people around to supervise children and, with a little more care and forward planning, most accidents could be avoided.
Christmas safety tips
Follow these 12 safety tips to prevent your festivities being cut short by a trip to casualty:
- Make sure you buy children's gifts for the correct age group and from reputable retailers, and ensure they comply to safety standards. You can find more information on our toy safety pages.
- Remember to buy batteries for toys that need them – that way you won't be tempted to remove batteries from smoke alarms
- Look out for small items that could pose a choking hazard to young children, including parts that have fallen off toys or from Christmas trees, button batteries, and burst balloons
- Keep decorations and cards away from fires and other heat sources such as light fittings. Don't leave burning candles unattended – make sure you put them out before going to bed – and do not put candles on Christmas trees
- If you have old Christmas lights, seriously consider buying new ones which will meet much higher safety standards, and don't let children play with lights (some have swallowed the bulbs). You can find more information in our Christmas lights safety tips below.
- Remember, Christmas novelties are not toys, even if they resemble them, and they do not have to comply with toy safety regulations. Give careful thought to where you display them – for example, place them high up on Christmas trees where they are out of the reach of young hands
- Give yourself enough time to prepare and cook Christmas dinner to avoid hot fat, boiling water and sharp knife accidents that come from rushing, and keep anyone not helping with dinner out of the kitchen. Wipe up any spills quickly
- Have scissors handy to open packaging, so you're not tempted to use a knife, and have screwdrivers at the ready to assemble toys
- Beware of trailing cables and wires in the rush to connect new gadgets and appliances, and always read instructions
- Falls are the most common accidents so try to keep clutter to a minimum. Make sure stairs are well-lit and free from obstacles, especially if you have guests
- Plan New Year fireworks parties well in advance and follow the Firework Code
- Do not drink and drive, and plan long journeys so you won't be driving tired.
Did you know?
In 2002 (the latest statistics available), 1,000 people were estimated to have visited A&E in the UK after home accidents involving Christmas trees and 350 people after home accidents involving Christmas lights.
Source: Home Accident Surveillance System, 2002.
Candles sparked around 1,000 UK house fires, resulting in nine deaths and 388 casualties, in 2011/12.
Fairy lights went up in smoke causing 20 fires, while Christmas trees, decorations and cards were also a fire risk and responsible for 47 house fires, leading to 20 non-fatal casualties, across the UK.
Source: 2011/12 Fire Statistics Great Britain from the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Christmas lights safety
If you have old lights, seriously consider buying new ones which will meet much higher safety standards.
- Look for safety marks e.g. BS Kitemark
- Buy from a reputable store
- Avoid buying second-hand unless you have them professionally checked first
- New lights are transformed down to 24 volt for added safety, or they may be double insulated.
- Never insert or remove bulbs when switched on
- Inspect cables and bulbs for damage
- Do not use lights which are damaged – dispose of them safely.
- Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions
- Use an RCD (residual current device) for added protection against shock
- Do not use the lights outdoors unless specifically made for such use
- Don't run the cable under carpets or where it can be damaged
- Keep lights clear of decorations and other flammable materials
- Avoid cables becoming a tripping hazard
- Use a stable support when hanging the lights
- Don't leave the lights on when the room is empty. Remember to switch them off when you go to bed and when you go out of the house
- Don't allow children to play with the lights.
- Take care when dismantling and packing the lights not to damage them
- Keep them safely stored away out of reach of children
- Avoid damp or excessively hot conditions.
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