The holiday season is approaching, and with it, an increasing number of holiday lights and decorations are in view. But did you know that behind these colorful displays hides the possibility of serious injury and death? Although injuries are down from their peak in the 1980s and 1990s – when approximately 48 people were injured and 13 people were killed in holiday lighting accidents each year – these products still pose a continued danger.
A Proposal to Classify Holiday Lights as a Hazard
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recently drafted a proposed rule that would classify holiday lights and seasonal decorations as substantial product hazards under the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) in certain situations. Specifically, these products would be considered hazards if they do not have at least one of three “readily observable characteristics.” The three characteristics listed by the agency in its proposal are:
- Minimum wire size
- Sufficient strain relief
- Overcurrent protection
Manufacturers and Sellers Face Liability for Their Products
Recognizing the danger that is posed by dangerous products, the CPSA imposes many reporting requirements related to items that are classified as substantially hazardous. Additionally, the products’ manufacturer and distributors, as well as importers and others who are involved in the business-to-consumer product chain, face substantial civil and criminal liability.
Err on the Side of Caution
If you suspect that your holiday lights or other decorations may be unsafe, whether from age, wear, or shoddy manufacturing, do not use them. Return them to the store or dispose of them in an appropriate fashion, and then obtain new, safe decorations.