The holiday season is supposed to be a time of good cheer. American culture has evolved to embrace the closing of each year as a celebration of the values we each hold dear. It's evident in the environments we create.

The holiday season prompts many to bring out the decorative lighting, which gets the average consumer to mingle with safety hazards that electrical contractors deal with every day. Unfortunately, the average consumer doesn’t have the same electrical safety training.

As a result, every year, injuries and deaths can dampen the holiday spirit. As a matter of fact, the U.S. Consumer and Product Safety Commission reports that during the two months surrounding the holiday season, more than 14,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms due to injuries related to holiday decorating. And like many safety failures, these tragedies can be avoided

ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR would like to draw attention to two dangers in particular. In both cases, electrical contractors can help by raising awareness and keeping a watchful eye.

First, contractors can help their customers understand the risks of using holiday lighting. From overloaded power strips, circuits and extension cords to improper placement and installation, holiday lighting can pose significant fire hazards when elaborate schemes are installed without care.

ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR received a story from the Energy Education Council about a man named Shawn Miller who flung strings of lights into a tree and made contact with a power line, resulting in a 7,200-volt (V) shock and 27 exit wounds. Luckily, Miller survived but lost his left hand and one finger on his right hand.

"I was just hanging Christmas lights at my mom's house like I do every year," Miller said. "Only this time, I was decorating a new area: the trees that lined the front of the yard. Please take note of your surroundings before decorating outside, especially power lines and the service connection to your home. Make sure to keep yourself, ladders, and lights far away from them. I'm lucky to be alive. I want everyone to be careful. Be aware of power lines."

Though preventable accidents occur, electrical contractors are adept at avoiding electrical hazards and could pass on safety tips to their customers to help avoid tragedies.

Miller is doing his part to promote the Energy Education Council's www.safeelectricity.org, a website designed to raise awareness of electricity hazards. There, users can watch a video of Miller's story and view a checklist of safety tips when decorating with holiday lighting.

The second way electrical contractors can help is by remaining vigilant against counterfeit electrical products or, more specific to this case, counterfeit Christmas lights.

Three years ago, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR began a campaign against counterfeit electrical products (visit www.counterfeitscankill.com for more on the initiative). As part of the initiative, we released a press release about counterfeit Christmas lights that received a fair bit of attention.

Counterfeit electrical products remain a multi-billion dollar problem for the electrical industry and present many safety and health hazards. Follow the tips at www.counterfeitscankill.com and in the press release, and pass those lessons onto your customers.