Holiday décor – Safety steps to keep things merry and bright


There are many who celebrate holidays during this time of year, and decorating for these celebrations frequently extends from the home to include the public entity workplace. Review these guidelines for decorative displays to keep this holiday season merry and bright (and safe!)

General guidelines

  • Due to a lack of regulations, holiday decorations may contain high levels of toxins or other inherent safety hazards. Always purchase from reputable sources, read all labels and follow manufacturer guidelines.
  • When purchasing extension cords, holiday lights, and other electrical decorations, check for certification from organizations such as Underwriting Laboratories (UL) or Intertek (ETL).
  • Always consider the inherent fire dangers while designing a display:
    • Use flame-resistant materials when possible.
    • Keep walls and ceilings clear of combustibles.
    • Keep light fixtures and sprinkler heads clear.
    • Keep at least 60% of wall space clear.

We do not recommend the use of extension cords or light strings due to the risk of short-circuiting and other fire dangers; however, if they are to be used, please review the safety guidelines later in this article.

Avoid decorations that may contain irritants

Avoid using chemically generated artificial snow, flocking, angel hair spun glass, etc., and check all labels for lead or other chemical content.

Holiday plants

Poinsettia, mistletoe, holly and other holiday plan are irritants to humans when ingested and can be extremely toxic to animals.

Extension cords

  • Use extension cords that are long enough for their intended purpose – never join two cords together.
  • Never:
    • Leave cords in high traffic areas.
    • Severely bend or pinch cords.
    • Compromise a cord’s insulation.
    • Nail or staple cords to secure them in place.
    • Remove a prong to make a cord fit a two-prong outlet, or
    • Run cords through walls or ceilings.
  • Only use extension cords for their intended use (rated indoor, outdoor, etc.).
  • Double check that extension cords can meet the electrical loads of decorations requiring power.

Electrical outlets and decorations

Map out available electrical outlets and arrange decoration in ways that will not overload their capacity. Inspect outlets and decorations for defects such as cracks, loose or bare wires, loose connections, or other damage that could lead to shock or fire hazard. Always unplug decorations when they are unattended and before attempting to replace broken bulbs or old fuses.


Incandescent lights generate far more heat than their LED counterparts, therefore using LED options is recommended. If incandescent lights are used, never string more than three strands together. Never drape any other decoration over a light or lamp shade, and always unplug all lights at the end of the day.

Information for this article was taken from the Electrical Safety Foundation International and Children’s Health websites. For more information, please contact a Preferred Loss Control Consultant.

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