Dangling dangers of putting up Christmas lights

Hospitals say falls increase this time of year

SAN ANTONIO – Homes are shining bright this time of the year as many families begin to light up their homes with holiday decorations. If you’re thinking about hiring a company to hang outdoor Christmas lights, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Luis Leal, an insurance agent, said you need to ask questions about the company you're hiring to ensure it's reputable. You should also make sure the company has commercial general liability that will cover its workers if they fall off your roof or that will pay for any damage to your home.

“In the event of a fire, say the Christmas lights cause a fire at the house, the homeowner’s insurance immediately kicks in," Leal said. “Typically, in the backend, the homeowner’s insurance will go after the general liability for the contractor.”

If you’re a homeowner, your homeowner’s insurance most likely includes liability coverage for things such as falls. Still, it’s best to read the policy and become familiar with its details, Leal said.

“A liability claim is something insurance companies don’t like to see, so it could have an effect on the policy, maybe even to the extent of cancellation,” he said.

Douglas Macario, with Macario Holiday Lighting, said people need to ask for a contract to ensure they have something in writing that protects both parties. He also suggests that people do business with local companies. He urges people to ask for multiple references and ask for proof of insurance.

“Make sure they’re insured, that they’re using the proper equipment. Make sure (the workers are) harnessed when they’re on there," Macario said.

If you choose to put up the lights yourself, keep safety in mind. University Hospital said it sees more falls around this time of the year.

“You really could be seriously hurt,“ said Jennifer Northway, director of injury prevention at University Hospital. “We do see things as serious as traumatic brain injury from falling off a ladder.”

The hospital offered the following tips to prevent falls:

  1. Position portable ladders so the side rails extend at least 3 feet above the landing.
  2. Inspect the ladder for cracks, breaks or defective parts before using it.
  3. Don’t apply more weight on the ladder than it’s designed for, and don’t extend beyond your reach while on the ladder.
  4. Have someone holding your ladder while you’re on it.

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