SHEilds Christmas Gifts #4 – Keeping Christmas Merry

Seasonal Hazards You May have Missed

Finally, Christmas day is nearly upon us with presents and Christmas dinner proving it’s a wonderful life after all.

Having said that – and I’m not looking to spoil any of the Christmas cheer – sadly there is an element of danger during the festive period, especially on Christmas day. Statistics show that the season can be a pretty dangerous time of the year, especially for the unprepared.

Previously I haven’t paid much attention to these specific dangers and I would hazard a guess that most people haven’t either, however after doing some research I found quite a few worrying risks around the house that we tend to take for granted while others – which may be more or less dangerous – are completely forgotten.

As we make the final approach to the 25th I thought I would share some of these hazards to inform and hopefully prepare my fellow Christmas revellers.

Safety for the Christmas Kitchen

So first up is the place where much of the magic happens on Christmas day, the kitchen.

You may laugh, asking what dangers could lurk in the corners of the kitchen? Well, I would start with the basic hazards such as boiling water, hot oil and knives; all of which make the kitchen a potentially dangerous place. Although these are dangers to avoid all year, Christmas cheer often brings a new element of excitability to our normal responsible selves and we may well forget to clean a small spill. An excited child or slightly inebriated adult can slip and our perfect accident record in the kitchen goes out the door on the way to A&E.

To avoid these hazards, you just need to keep up the good work you’ve done all year and clean spills up immediately, try limiting your wine intake while cooking and try to keep people who are not helping with the cooking out of the kitchen.

The more serious hazard that could end up ruining your Christmas day involves the main attraction of the meal itself; the turkey, if incorrectly prepared it can cause no end of trouble like food poisoning such as salmonella which could even be fatal to a vulnerable digestive tract and at least extremely unpleasant to the more resilient.

The main solution to this hazard is quite simple. Give yourself enough time to follow the recipe and not take any shortcuts to get the turkey cooked in a hurry. Make sure that you have time to relax too while all this is happening and you will be more alert, consequently avoiding turning the kitchen into an accident scene.

For more in-depth advice on Christmas food preparation, be sure to check out our previous blog.

Alcohol – Friend or Foe?

In truth alcohol is both. The Second hazard is a common culprit and can cause as many laughs as tears in various situations. Most people enjoy a little drink over the Christmas period and since it’s the season to be jolly people tend to let their hair down, sometimes going that step too far and getting into dangerous situations.

Prevention is obviously better than cure, but we all know how the substance can creep up and surprise you. If you are planning on having a drink set a limit in advance or purposefully buy a sensible amount you can’t exceed later, even if you decide you’d like to. Don’t forget that excessive consumption will result in an excessive hangover the next day, meaning time out from Christmas and missing out!

If you’re driving then alcohol should be completely off limits; a combination of driving under the influence with seasonal weather is dangerous not just to you but also the other road users. Stick to soft drinks and play it safe.

If you’re not driving and drinking is on the cards be wary of other hazards around the household which may be amplified by intoxication. Stay on the ground floor as much as possible – alcohol and stairs are not friends – and consider postponing any chores until your sober.

Stairway Safety

This brings me to the third hazard; the stairs can prove to be very hazardous indeed under the wrong circumstances.

A cluttered, dark staircase can cause the previously inebriated adult or an over excited child no end of pain with broken or sprained limbs and unplanned trips to A&E, returning to a cold Christmas dinner which may hold some dangers of its own.

To keep this area a safe as possible ensure stairs are well-lit and free of clutter like toys and clothes, especially if you have visitors over who may be unfamiliar with the household layout and more susceptible to missteps.

Presents – An Underrated Hazard?

Fourth in line is one of the most underrated seasonal hazards. With presents, many injuries involve parents using scissors instead of a screw driver when assembling toys, cutting and accidentally stabbing themselves or tripping over toys and cables when walking around with new tablets and phones.

To avoid these type of accidents, be prepared on Christmas day. Make sure you have a screwdriver and some other tools handy just in case. Make sure to have spare batteries for the toys too, if you’re tempted to remove batteries from a smoke detector the cost may be higher than you think.

Basic cleanliness also goes a long way to keeping people safe; make sure your floors are clear of clutter and cables to minimise the risk of unnecessary trip injuries.

Decorations and Fire Risk

The fifth hazardous topic is the decorations which includes the tree, fairy lights and candles. Any of these items can present serious fire hazards leading to a potentially ruinous Christmas day.

Here are a few statistics to emphasise the severity of the problem:

‘In 2002, 1,000 people were estimated to have visited A&E in the UK after home accidents involving Christmas trees and 350 people after home accidents involving Christmas lights.’

Source: Home Accident Surveillance System, 2002

‘Candles sparked around 1,000 UK house fires, resulting in 9 deaths and 388 casualties, in 2011/12.

Fairy lights went up in smoke causing 20 fires, while Christmas trees, decorations and cards were also a fire risk and responsible for 47 house fires, leading to 20 non-fatal casualties, across the UK.’

Source: 2011/12 Fire Statistics Great Britain from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

These statistics, worrying as they are can be avoided quite easily by keeping flammable decorations such as cards away from heat sources and not leaving candles unattended. Remember to turn all lights off when not home or when going to bed; if you own older Christmas lights better to be safe than sorry and replace them with new modern standard safety lights.

You can find more advice on Christmas Light safety here.

Mind the Mistletoe

Strange as it may seem the 7th seasonal danger to avoid during Christmas is considered one of its most romantic facets. Christmas plants can often be toxic when consumed, even in relatively small quantities.

With Mistletoe, the berries cause lowered heart rates and hallucinations being poisonous and dangerous while Christmas roses and Christmas berries can cause diarrhoea; indeed Christmas rose is so effective that it was used by the ancient Greeks as a chemical weapon!

To avoid the dangers of said plants ask your garden centre for non-toxic alternatives, use plastic replicas or avoid buying the poisonous plants outright. If you really must use the real thing ensure it is handled with utmost care; wash hands after touching or wear gloves and make sure younger children cannot reach them.

Seasonal Stress

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Find a SHEilds eLearning Course to Kickstart your 2017!

Christmas has a dark side too. Between lack of sleep, rushed shopping, relatives and the pressure of expectations this can all get to be too much for some people.

To avoid this stress try to keep events in perspective and remember that no festivity is worth sacrificing good health over. Take the children out for a walk and make sure to set aside some time for yourself over the holidays to just relax, enjoy the day and smell the roses.

Above all perhaps an element of flexibility is recommended; if a preparation or a planned event is spiralling out of control make sure you’re ready to cut your losses. Scaling back plans and keeping everyone happy is not a bad compromise compared to forcing grandeur pushing yourself over the edge.

Driving at Christmas

Last but certainly not least is one of the more dangerous Christmas hazards, driving.

I already mentioned driving earlier but ruling out alcohol doesn’t rule out all the dangers. If your vehicle breaks down, runs out of fuel or gets hit by adverse weather conditions you could find yourself in a lot of trouble.

If you have no other option but to drive through Winter weather make sure that you are as prepared as possible; service your vehicle and make sure you are ready for the most extreme weather you may encounter. Ensure you have the correct antifreeze and a winter driving kit if your heading into cold weather along with a fully charged mobile phone and spare warm clothes. As previously stated, do not under any circumstances drive under the influence.

Be sure to check out our Winter travel blog for further advice on the topic.

In Summary… Have a Merry Christmas!

I know that some of these hazards seem quite ordinary or routine, but this is the season to be silly as well as jolly. If you do some simple preparations, you can avoid the heartache and inconvenience of a serious accident on your Christmas day, keeping everything firmly in the merry and far away from misery.

A Wonderful Safe Christmas to all and remember to be prepared!


Marius Beukes

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