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What are the Most Common Holiday Related Accidents?

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Table of Contents

Decorating Safety

Fire Safety

Cooking Safety

Food Safety

Holiday Gathering Safety

What are the Most Common Holiday Related Accidents?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates there are about 15,000 annual injuries from Christmas decorating. According to a 2020 CPSC publication1:

  • On average, about 200 decorating-related injuries occurred each day during the holiday season, with about half of the incidents involving falls. And in the 2018 holiday season, about 17,500 people were treated in emergency rooms due to holiday decorating-related injuries.
  • In the last two decades, there were 220 fire or scald/burn incidents turkey fryers, resulting in 81 injuries and $9.7 million in property loss.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)2 estimates that between 2014-2018, the U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of two deaths, 14 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually.

  • Almost half (45%) of home Christmas tree fires involved electrical distribution or lighting equipment.
  • More than 1/5 (22%) of the Christmas tree fires, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.

U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 770 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees, in 2014-2018. These fires caused an annual average of two civilian deaths, 30 civilian fire injuries, and $11 million in direct property damage.

  • In more than 2 of every 5 (44%) fires, the decoration was too close to a heat source such as a candle or equipment.

How Do I Protect Myself from Common Accidents This Holiday Season?

The following safety tips are an overview of ways to stay safe this holiday season. Always read the directions for equipment (lights, ladders, fryers, etc.) and follow common sense practices for placing decorations and candles.

Decorating Safety1:

  • Keep potentially poisonous plants – mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis – away from children and pets.
  • Avoid placing breakable ornaments or ones with small, detachable parts on lower tree branches where small children can reach them.
  • Only use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors and choose the right ladder for the task when hanging lights.
  • Replace light sets that have broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections.
  • Only use lights tested for safety by a national recognized testing laboratory.
  • Follow the package directions on the number of light sets that can be plugged into one socket
  • Never nail, tack, or stress wiring when hanging lights and keep plugs off the ground away from puddles and snow.
  • Turn off all lights and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Ensure the ladder is on a level surface and the areas around its top and bottom are clear.
  • Stay centered between the ladder’s rails. Move the ladder instead of overreaching.
  • An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface must extend at least 3 feet above the point of support. Do not stand on the three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder.
  • The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface (see diagram).

Diagram courtesy of OSHA.

Fire Safety2:

Candles, fireplaces, Christmas trees, and flammable seasonal decorations will all make appearances this holiday season, and having The National Fire Protection Association reports that one-third of home decoration fires are started by candles and that two of every five decoration fires happen because the decorations are placed too close to a heat source. Never leave candles or fireplaces burning unattended or when you are asleep.


  • Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over and out of reach of children or pets.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high and out of reach from children in a locked cabinet.
  • Use flameless candles near flammable objects.


  • Check and clean the chimney and fireplace area at least once a year.
  • Don't burn trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in the fireplace as these can cause flash fires.
  • Always use a screen on the fireplace when a fire is burning

Christmas Trees

  • Place your tree at least 3 feet away from fireplaces, radiators, and other heat sources, making certain not to block doorways.
  • Artificial trees: check that it is labeled “Fire Resistant.”
  • Live trees: cut off about 2 inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption; remember to water it and remove it from your home when it’s dry.

Cooking Safety1:

  • Never leave food unattended on the stove or in the oven.
  • Keep children away from the cooking area and keep flammable items like potholders and paper or plastic bags away from the stove and oven.
  • Only fry a turkey outside and away from your home – not inside your garage or on your porch. Do not overfill the oil in the turkey fryer. The oil can reach temperatures that can cause third degree burns (350 degrees F!).
  • Avoid loose fitting clothing that can get caught in food or fires.
  • Turn pan handles so that they are not over the stove top.
  • Make sure you’ve inspected your fire extinguisher’s pressure gauge (it should be in the green), the hose/nozzle (make sure there’s no cracks, rips, or blockages), the locking pin, and the handle.
  • If a pan catches on fire, cover it with a lid to smother the flames or use a fire extinguisher. Never use flour or water to put out a pan fire. Call 911 if necessary.

Food Safety4:

  • Wash your hands frequently when handling food.
  • Rinse produce before you peel it to help avoid transferring dirt and bacteria from the knife into the fruit or vegetable. Gently wash the produce under plain running water – no soap or produce wash needed. Use a clean vegetable brush for firm produce (melons, cucumbers, etc.).
  • Keep raw meat away from fresh produce.
  • Use separate cutting boards, plate, and utensils for uncooked and cooked meats to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meat is cooked to a safe temperature.
  • Refrigerate hot or cold leftover food within two hours of being served.
  • When storing turkey, cut the leftovers in small pieces so they will chill quickly.
  • Holiday leftovers are safe for three to four days when properly refrigerated.

Holiday Gathering Safety5:

  • Consider virtual get togethers this year.
  • Limit the number of attendees as much as possible to allow people from different households to always remain at least 6 feet apart. Guests should avoid direct contact, including handshakes and hugs, with others not from their household.
  • Host outdoor rather than indoor gatherings as much as possible. Even outdoors, advise guests to wear masks when not eating or drinking.
  • To increase ventilation, open windows and doors (as much as is safe and feasible based on the weather) or place central air and heating on continuous circulation.
  • Provide and/or encourage attendees to bring supplies to help everyone stay healthy. These include extra masks (do not share or swap with others), hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and tissues. Stock bathrooms with enough hand soap and single use towels.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use when possible.

Learn how Personal Accident Insurance or Hospitalization Insurance from ManhattanLife can help you keep your out-of-pocket costs when the unexpected happens.

Back to top.

  1. https://www.cpsc.gov/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/holiday-safety
  2. https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Seasonal-fire-causes/Winter-holidays/Holiday-fires-by-the-numbers
  3. https://www.emergencyphysicians.org/article/health--safety-tips/holiday-safety-tips
  4. https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep-food-safe
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html

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