Lights and Ladders: Decorating Safety

Making Christmas wreath with hands on wooden background

Even if you’re not locked in a fierce annual battle with your neighbor to have the most decked-out house on the block, there’s a good chance you’ll be climbing a ladder or stringing some lights this holiday season. Do it safely with the following tips to avoid pain and frustration during this festive time of year.

The first thing you need to do is select the right equipment: use an actual ladder, not the nearest chair or overturned bucket, when you need to reach things at a higher level. A stepladder will be more than enough for work at a low or medium level, while jobs at ceiling level or higher require an extension ladder; don’t try to stretch from a too-short stepladder, and don’t use a tall ladder for small jobs – it should be comfortable and sensible for the work you’re doing. Inspect ladders for dangerous rusting, loose screws or rungs, and other damage that could put you at risk.

When setting up the ladder, always do so on a stable, even surface – don’t try to work around a soft, muddy spot outside or a dip in the floorboards. Keep a 1 to 4 ratio in your setup for an extension ladder: it should be one foot from the wall for every four feet the ladder raises. When you’re using the ladder, keep three points of contact at all times; either two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand should be securely on the ladder when you are. Especially with tall ladders, it’s helpful to work with a partner who can secure the ladder for you and hand things up to you. Finally, dress for the occasion! Wear clean, dry, slip-resistant shoes rather than socks, sandals, or shoes without much traction.

Just like with ladders, proper equipment is important for lights, too. Before hanging any, check the packaging to see whether they were intended for indoor or outdoor use, and don’t try to use them interchangeably: indoor lights aren’t built for weather conditions like water or cold, and outdoor lights often have different voltage requirements. Don’t connect more than three strands of incandescent lights together, and don’t overload outlets or extension cords. Make sure there are no broken lights on the string, or any frayed cords, and keep cords out of doorways and windows, where they can become damaged. Finally, although your lights are surely beautiful, don’t keep them on all night – reduce the risk of fire by turning them off before you go to bed.


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