18th December 2019

Keeping an eye on Christmas safety

With the big day just around the corner, we offer a few simple tips to ensure your Christmas goes off with the right kind of a bang

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team

Christmas often brings with it the temptation to over-indulge. Last year’s New Year resolutions were abandoned some time around the beginning of February and the urge to splurge – on food, presents and decorations – takes over as the run-up to Christmas intensifies.

This is probably particularly true when there are children around – nobody wants to be a Grinch, and no one wants the kids to be disappointed on Christmas morning. So we spend more money on more things – and since nobody has an unlimited budget, there is often the temptation to economise by buying cheaper products that may not come from particularly reputable sources.

This is perhaps most likely to be the case with Christmas lights and other decorations – it makes sense that items which are seen as temporary and ephemeral, to be packed back into their boxes and shoved back into the attic or garage for another 12 months and forgotten about, should be the ones we are most likely to cut corners with.

But the unfortunate fact is that these are precisely the kinds of product that can cause significant consumer harm.

Shocking stats

According to the National Accident Helpline, more than one in 40 people have received an electric shock from badly wired Christmas lights, while according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), people are 50% more likely to die in a house fire than at any other time of year and around 350 people per year are injured by Christmas tree decorations.

Christmas lights and decorations can also pose particular dangers to children. Despite the fact that they can often look like toys, Christmas decorations are not classified as such and therefore do not adhere to the same safety standards. This means they can have small detachable parts that pose a choking hazard to young children, who are unlikely to see any difference between a Santa toy and a Santa tree decoration.

Similarly, some novelty decorations are powered by button batteries – small coin-sized cells that pose a particular hazard to small children.

Simple steps

The intention of highlighting the potential dangers of Christmas isn’t to spread fear or doom and gloom; rather, it is to bring to attention the simple, straightforward tips that we can all follow to make sure this Christmas is memorable for all the right reasons.

These include:

  • Ensure you children’s gifts are categorised as toys rather than novelty decorations, and therefore adhere to the relevant safety standards.
  • Make sure that items which are classified as decorations are kept out of reach of young children
  • Be aware of small items that could pose a choking hazard to young children, particularly button batteries
  • Keep decorations away from fires and other heat sources, and never leave burning candles unattended
  • Always check Christmas lights that have been stored away from the previous year are not damaged or broken
  • If you need any replacement bulbs, make sure they are of the same type and rating as those originally supplied with the lights
  • Never put lights outdoors unless they have been specifically designed for such use
  • Make sure that smoke alarms in your home have been tested and the batteries are working

Check out our 2019 Advent Calendar for more tips on how to have a safe Christmas and for more information on how trading standards continues to keep an eye out for consumer safety over the festive period.

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