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Happy & Healthy Holidays - Decorating Safety Tips

Twas the month before Christmas
And all through the town
Holiday decorations were being
displayed all around

Lights to be hung!
Tinsel galore!
All those boxes and clutter
thrown across the floor

To the desk chair I flew
Must have been such a sight
As I scrambled on top
To hang Christmas lights

As I stood on my tiptoes
Oh! That rolling desk chair
The chair slipped! I flew!
Should have been more aware

And as I was falling
And landing real hard
I realized a better option
Could be found in the yard

And so out I ran
Forgot all the clutter
Tripped in my hurry
Such angry words did I mutter!

Got untangled from the tinsel
Only to trip and sprawl
Into all those ornament boxes
Out of which I needed to crawl

Gradually worked my way closer
Over to the shed
The pathway was blocked!
I had nowhere to tread

Pushed and pulled all those boxes
Out of the way
Twisted and tweaked my back
"Lumbar Sprain" Doc would eventually say

Then what to my wondering
Eyes finally appeared
A ladder with safety labels
(Which I ignored feeling no fear)

The spirits had cheered me
And tasted ever so good
I was feeling kind of tipsy
Not being as safe as I should

So, I climbed to the tip
To the very top rung
Carrying all those decorations
That needed to be hung

And finally, had only one
Seasonal star to be placed
Thought I could just reach it
This job would be aced!

Then I reached too far over
And fell off the ladder
And on the way down
Made such a clatter

The neighbors all ran
To see what was the matter
And as the ambulance drove off
I spied them passing around the cookie platter

Injury statistics are reported
And now I am one
Unfortunately for me
The joyful season is done

In my sad story
A lesson can be learned
Benefit from my mistakes
And healthy redemption be earned

This holiday time
Be safe when you decorate
And use common sense
Or have the same fate

Be careful this season
Follow safety rules
Have Happy Holidays
And use the right tools!

Be safe, I proclaim
When decorating at new heights
Remember ergonomics
Have a healthy Christmas night!



According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 8,700 people were treated in emergency departments in 2002 specifically for decoration-related ladder injuries. Don't become a statistic this year. Follow these tips for a healthy and happy holiday season.

As you hang lights and decorations, use a step-stool rather than furniture for items that are slightly out of reach. Never stand on any furniture that is not stable. Make sure that the stool is locked into the open position. For higher tasks, use a ladder that is in good condition. For every 4 feet that the ladder reaches up, the base should be 1 foot away from the wall. Follow all height and weight restrictions that are posted on the ladder. Do not climb above the maximum height posted. The ladder top should extend 3 feet above the surface you are trying to reach. When climbing the ladder, face it directly. Keep balanced over the middle of the ladder. Do not overextend your reach. Place the legs on a solid and level surface. If the ground is soft or uneven, use a plank of wood to provide stability.

Use proper body mechanics to avoid back pain when lifting boxes. Ask for help when lifting heavier objects. Hold objects close to the body, not at arm's length. Do not lean forward at the hips when picking up items from low surfaces; rather, squat down, hold the item close, and use the strength of your legs as you stand up to lift the item. Do not twist or turn at the waist. Your toes should always face the surface that you are lifting the object from or placing it on.

Avoid excessive clutter that can cause you to trip. Place electrical cords away from general walking pathways or tape them down. Do not overload electrical circuits. Keep walkways clear of boxes and decorations. Avoid rushing through the holidays. Perform activities requiring the most safety awareness when you are alert and relaxed.

Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing at the Hand Therapy & Occupational Fitness Center in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.

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