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Occupational health and safety news and guidance

‘tis the season to be fire-ready

06-12-2013

Photo shows the feet of a family in front of a fireAs we all know, Christmas is a time for jollities and japes, overindulging in mulled wine and of course, one too many mince pies. For me, the most important part of the holiday season is taking the time to relax and step back from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

Although Christmas is for having fun with family and friends, it is also a time when extra fire hazards are introduced into the home; yes this is in reference to you, deceptively innocent-looking fairy lights and striking tinselly décor. Even the humble Christmas tree poses a threat! Most fires that occur at this time of year can be attributed to the distractions of a crowded household, food being left unattended while cooking, fairy lights being left on and of course the added influence of alcohol. Christmas cards, room decorations and trees add extra fuel to the fire.

Christmas is a busy time for the Fire Service. Statistics show that the number of injuries and deaths from accidental fires are at their peak in December and January. According to the figures, there is an increase in the number of deaths caused by fire during December of 40% for women and 27% for men - many more people are likely to die in a house fire over Christmas than at any other time. More than 80,000 people a year need hospital treatment for injuries during the festive period.

So although one might be inclined to neglect all responsibility over the Christmas period, it is imperative to bear in mind your fire safety duties. With a little help from Direct Gov, we have compiled a list of hazards that pose the greatest threat over the holiday season so as to ensure your Christmas stays merry:

The 12 tips of Christmas

1) Alcohol

The legal limit for driving is 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, but it is very difficult to judge when you've reached that limit. Alcohol affects everyone differently and is influenced by many different factors. If you’re out celebrating over the festive period, do not drink if you’re driving. Remember to plan long journeys in advance so you won’t be driving when tired.

2) Candles

Ensure you never place candles near your Christmas tree or any other flammable materials such as tinsel, hanging decorations or Christmas cards.

3) Cigarettes

Ensure that cigarettes are stubbed out properly and hot ashes are not stored within the vicinity of any flammable materials. Take extra care when alcohol is involved.

4) Decorations

Decorations are highly flammable and should not be hung near or attached to electric lights, candles or radiators.

5) Electric sockets

Do not overload electrical sockets, and ensure that Christmas fairy lights are switched off and unplugged if you leave them unattended and before you go to bed at night. Beware of trailing cables and wires and always read instructions when connecting new appliances.

6) Emergency exits

Ensure your house is fitted with the correct fire safety equipment and that you have specific emergency exits and a plan of escape, particularly within large households. Make sure that friends and visitors to your house are also aware of this plan.

7) Fairy lights

Check that the decorative thread of lights adorning your Christmas tree and/or your window display is branded with the British Safety Standard sign. If you have old Christmas lights consider buying new ones so they are in full working order and meet the highest safety standards. Always remember to switch off the lights before leaving the house or going to bed.

8) Fireworks

Plan fireworks parties well in advance and ensure fireworks are stored safely according to instructions on the run-up to the occasion. Never go back to a lit firework under any circumstances, and be sure to keep a bucket of water nearby in case of emergency.

9) Kitchen

Most house fires start in the kitchen (cooking appliances are the source of ignition for over half of them [source]); this year, give yourself enough time to prepare and cook Christmas dinner – by reducing the need to rush, you reduce the risks from hot fat, boiling water and sharp knives. Wipe up spills as soon as they occur to avoid a slip hazard.

10) Open fires

Take care when using open fires to keep warm - always use a British Standard-approved fire guard to protect against escaping hot embers and sparks, as these could set fire to your clothes or any other flammable materials nearby.

11) Smoke alarms

It recommended that your test smoke detectors and fire alarms regularly to guarantee that they will alert you in an emergency. It is recommended that you have one smoke alarm for each level of your house, change the battery in smoke alarms every year and replace the whole unit every ten years.

12) Unattended flames

Keep candles, lighters and matches out of the reach and sight of children. Make sure you don’t leave burning candles unattended, and that they are kept away from any flammable materials (this includes the Christmas tree!).

photo of Kirsty Boden

Bio:
Kirsty Boden is a keen blogger and social media enthusiast, and enjoys creating quality pieces of engaging content for her followers. Whether it be on behalf of herself or a client, she enjoys sharing her personal experiences and has a diverse span of interests including technology, food, health, fitness, fashion and the arts.
Follow Kirsty on Twitter - @littlebearson

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