Whether you’re trying to win your neighborhood contest or just want to add holiday cheer to your home, following some simple but critical safety smarts will help keep you injury-free this season. Every year, 14,000-15,000 people go to the hospital with injuries related to holiday decorations, reports the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). November and December average 230 such injuries every single day. Top causes: Falls, lacerations and back strains, mostly while decorating outside. Play it safe with these eight tips:

1. Choose UL certified lights. “No persuasive reason exists” to “import, manufacture, distribute, or sell seasonal lights and decorative outfits that do not meet the UL standard,” the CPSC warns retailers. Because of this, most U.S.-based retailers only stock UL certified holiday lights. However, you’ll need to look for the UL certification yourself. Indoor-use only light strings bear UL’s green holographic label, so skip these when decorating outside. Instead, look for the UL red holographic label, which denotes certification for both indoor/outdoor uses.

2. Test and inspect lights before hanging them. With the lights still on the ground, plug them in to ensure they work. Then examine them, even a new set, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, advises the CPSC. Dispose of them if you find any damage, as they pose a fire risk, and decorations, excluding Christmas trees, cause an estimated 860 home structure fires per year, according to the National Fire Protection Association.


3. Practice ladder smarts. Start with a firm foundation, advises the National Safety Council, and avoid slippery, wet or soft surfaces. Some other tips: Place the ladder 1 foot away from the side of the house for every 4 feet of ladder height. Consider having someone hold the ladder while you climb. Keep three points of contact while climbing, and wear slip-resistant shoes. Get more tips here.

4. Use plastic hooks on the eaves. These clip easily to the eaves of your home and then to the lights, making it easy to hang lights without doing damage to the roof … and without having to climb onto the roof.

5. Connect up to three strings together – no more. Don’t connect more than three strings of incandescent lights, advises the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI). However, you can connect up to 25 strands of LED lights.

6. Use extension cords properly. Extension cords cause an estimated 3,300 fires a year, killing 50 people and injuring 270, reports the ESFI. Anytime you use one outside, choose an extension cord rated for outdoor use. Also:

  • Do not use cords with cuts or signs of fraying.
  • Don’t exceed the cord’s load max. Home Depot offers a guide for calculating this.
  • Avoid plugging extension cords into one another.
  • Keep all outdoor extension cords clear of snow and standing water.
  • Don’t nail or staple extension cords to walls or baseboards
  • Do not run extension cords through walls, doorways, ceilings or floors.
  • Don’t use three-prong plugs with two-prong outlets.

7. Plug outdoor lights into a grounded outlet. Use a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected outlet (or extension cord), advises the ESFI. These interrupt the flow of electricity if there is a problem, helping to prevent a fire or electrical shock.

8. Shut it down at night. Turn off all electrical decorations before you leave home or go to sleep, or put them on a timer.

Lighting up our homes, whether with just a few strings of lights or multiple decorations, remains a favorite tradition, making the season feel special. Applying these tips will help ensure that your holidays are merry and bright.