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Christmas calamity

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The cards are being written, presents wrapped, and a decorating and shopping frenzy is taking place across the country, in the run up to Christmas. However, Christmas can also be a time of hazards and accidents waiting to happen. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents estimate that around 80,000 people per year need hospital treatment for injuries as a result of falls, burns and cuts during the 12 days of Christmas. Statistics show that the time when our hospital accident and emergency departments are the busiest is the Friday before Christmas.

The RoSPA say that accidents can easily happen in the excitement of the season, but with a bit of forward planning, most of them can be avoided. Did you know that you are 50% more likely to die in a house fire over Christmas than at any other time of year?  Going back to 2008, there were nearly 1400 candle related fire incidents in UK homes, injuring more than 500 people, and with 18 fatalities. Sheila Merrill, home safety manager at RoSPA says "Never put candles on or near a Christmas tree, or leave an open flame unattended". She also confirms that tea lights should be kept in an appropriate container, on a heat resistant surface, as they have been known to actually burn through a television set or bath.

Fairy lights are a potential risk also, with an average of 350 people per year being injured each Christmas, in accidents involving falling whilst trying to hang the lights, children actually swallowing them, and electric shocks and burns. Would you believe that 26 people have died in the last 13 years from watering Christmas trees, with the fairy lights on? The advice from the RoSPA is that older types of fairy lights should be replaced with new ones (which should meet stringent safety standards), don't overload sockets and ALWAYS switch the lights off when leaving the house or going to bed.

An average of 1000 people will injure themselves this year putting up the Christmas decorations, the most common type of accident being falls from makeshift ladders. Children have been known to have injure themselves by biting into decorations designed to look like chocolate, and of course, there are the perils of accessing the loft or attic for the decorations themselves. Sheila Merrill advises that "Glass decorations should be placed out of the reach of toddlers and pets" and warns that novelty decorations which are designed to look like toys may not comply with the strict toy safety regulations, and therefore, should also be kept out of reach of young and inquisitive children.

Lastly, do not forget the Christmas dinner itself. The highlight of the day - tables groaning with turkey, roast potatoes and all the traditional accompaniments. One last piece of advice from the RoSPA is give yourself enough time to prepare and cook the Christmas dinner to avoid, not only a delicate tummy the day afterwards, but also hot fat, boiling water, and sharp knife accidents. They say keep anyone out of the kitchen who isn't assisting in preparing the meal, and ensure that any spills are wiped up quickly.

Keeping these tips in mind will ensure that everyone has a very merry and safe Christmas!

By personal injury executive, Pauline Smith