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Before we know it Christmas will be upon us. One of the major activities for these festivities is decorating our houses and streets with lights. Unfortunately, thousands of people around the country spend the season in hospital due to decorating related injuries including falls, cuts, electrical shocks and burns.

To stay safe and enjoy the Christmas holidays, follow these simple steps and avoid decorating hazards.

Firstly, make sure you use outdoor/weatherproof lights for outdoor decorations. The packaging should clearly state whether the lights can be used indoors, outdoors or both. Also use only certified quality products.

Secondly, when you unpack lights from last year, first check for defects such as frayed wires, burned out bulbs or loose connections. Replace dead bulbs with bulbs of same wattage as original strand.

You should only use plastic clips or hooks to hang lights - never staple or nail the light strings. Do not place the lights near sources of heat such as heaters, fireplace, candles or even other electronic items that are likely to become hot on use. Make sure none of the bulbs rest on the light string either.

Do not cover the light bulbs with inflammable materials such as cloth or paper. You should always check the recommended amount of light sets allowed on one string and the rating of the extension cord and power point to see that they are not overloaded. Also, use a portable safety switch or connect to a circuit protected by your main safety switch. If in doubt call a qualified electrician for proper outdoor lights installation. You should never expose extension cords to the weather or use it near water. Cover it if it is on a walkway and never place it across a driveway. Always unwind it completely to avoid overheating.

Lastly, do not touch a festival-light display. Turn it off and unplug before you do anything. Make sure you have a sturdy ladder for hanging the lights at heights. Move it as you work instead of learning out and check the balance each time you move.

Switch the lights off when you are not home, or are asleep or use an automatic timer.

So when the decorating begins, keep safe and have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.