Holiday Decorating Safety Tips


Yo! Venice! gets a lot of oddball press releases from a diverse group of people and organizations. I’ve never considered holiday decorating from the point of view of an orthopaedic surgeon … but the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has! Enjoy!

Make Way for the Winter: Time for Holiday Decorating. Orthopaedic surgeons encourage safety when cleaning for the winter and putting up holiday decorations.

Homer Simpson

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
o There were more than 505,000 injuries from rake or ladder use in 2009.

According to a 2000-2003 study evaluating winter holiday falls from November 1 – January 31:
o An estimated 17,465 persons were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments (EDs) for holiday decorating related falls.
o Approximately 62 percent of those injured were aged 20 – 49 years;
o approximately 43 percent of injuries were caused by falls from ladders; and
o males were 40 percent more likely than females to be injured.

o Properly set up the ladder on a firm, level surface. When you are cleaning out the garage or closet, be careful pushing or pulling anything from shelves while standing on a ladder. You could lose your balance and fall off.
o Watch for soft, muddy spots or uneven flooring, and never place a ladder on ground that is uneven.
o Remember the 1-to-4 rule: the bottom of the ladder should be 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet that the ladder rises.
o It’s very important to select the right ladder for the job. When working at low and medium heights, choose step stools or utility ladders.
o Extension ladders are ideal for use outdoors to reach high places, as when hanging items from the rooftop.
o Whether you are lifting a heavy laundry basket or a heavy box, remember to get close to the object, bend at the knees, and lift with your leg muscles. Do not bend at the waist.
o Ask for help when lifting a heavy object. A bulky package, awkwardly lifted, can lead to a back injury. You might want to take a break from your chores, but never use a stepladder’s top or pail shelf as a seat. It is not designed to carry your weight.
o Be careful when putting up holiday decorations, including lights and trees. Move materials with caution when on the ladder, and always position the ladder close to the work area, so you do not lose your balance and fall.
o Be mindful of any rearranged furniture and new decorations and make sure others in the house are familiar with the changes as well. Consider installing night lights in an area that is rearranged to avoid nighttime confusion.

Whether you are cleaning the garage or attic, clearing the gutters, or raking, it is time for the pre-winter cleanup. No matter the chore, these simple tasks can become a pain in the neck, quite literally. For some ambitious folks, these cleanup days also serve as an excellent time to put up holiday decorations before the first snowfall or family festivity. To make your seasonal cleanup less strenuous and to keep decorating stress-free, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) emphasizes proper safety when partaking in these activities.

“If you plan on putting up holiday decorations and lights, it’s important to do so with caution. With the constant ladder climbing and stretching, it’s easy to lose your balance or be careless for just a moment,” said orthopaedic surgeon Sherwin SW Ho, MD. “Be sure to take your time and avoid taking safety risks to get the job done at a quicker pace.”

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About the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

An orthopaedic surgeon is a physician with extensive training in the diagnosis and non-surgical as well as surgical treatment of the musculoskeletal system, including bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves.

With more than 36,000 members, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons ( or ( is the premier not-for-profit organization that provides education programs for orthopaedic surgeons and allied health professionals, champions the interests of patients and advances the highest quality musculoskeletal health. Orthopaedic surgeons and the Academy are the authoritative sources of information for patients and the general public on musculoskeletal conditions, treatments and related issues. An advocate for improved patient care, the Academy is participating in the Bone and Joint Decade ( – the global initiative in the years 2002-2011 – to raise awareness of musculoskeletal health, stimulate research and improve people’s quality of life.

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