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Fact Sheet

December 10, 2004  

Study: Fall-Related Injuries during the Holiday Season, United States, 2000-2003

The holiday season, November 1st to January 31st, can bring with it an increased risk of injuries from falls, as people use ladders, stools and other furniture to hang lights, ornaments and other decorations. About 5,800 people, two to three every hour, were treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries sustained while decorating during each of the 2000, 2001 and 2002 holiday seasons. Men were more likely than women to be injured (58% vs. 42%). Holiday fall prevention strategies should focus on raising awareness about seasonal fall hazards, using ladders safely, and using stable step stools rather than furniture when arranging holiday decorations.

Additional key findings include:

  • The majority of those injured in falls while decorating for the holidays (62%) were young and middle-age adults (20-49 years of age). In contrast, this age group comprises only 30% of people injured annually in falls.
  • Most holiday decorating-related falls were from ladders (43%), followed by falls from roofs, furniture (including step stools), stairs and porches.
  • Fractures were the most frequent holiday decorating-related injury (34%). Slightly more than half (51%) of the fractures were caused by falls from ladders.

CDC offers the following suggestions for holiday safety to prevent falls, adapted from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Falls Prevention Tips:

  • Recognize the possibility of falls.
  • Use safe ladder practices.
  • Use safer alternatives such as step stools instead of furniture when hanging decorations.
  • Increase your awareness of seasonal fall hazards, like decorations on the floor.

Safe Ladder Practices:

  • Make sure the ladder is on a secure and level footing before climbing.
  • Space the base of the ladder one foot away from the wall for every four feet it reaches up.
  • Stay centered between the rails of the ladder. Do not overreach—move the ladder.
  • Do not stand on the ladder's top two rungs.
  • To reach a roof, extend the ladder at least three feet beyond the edge of the roof.
  • Keep the area around the top and bottom of the ladder clear.
  • Make sure step ladders are securely locked open. Never use a folding step ladder when it is closed.

Prevention Resources:

This MMWR article is available online at:

For additional information from CDC’s Injury Center visit: 

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This page last updated December 10, 2004

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