Holiday Safety Tips: The 12 Days of Safety

The holidays are a joyful time to spend with family and friends, but a careless mistake could put a real damper on your festivities. Here are 12 safety tips to keep in mind this holiday season.

Never leave a burning candle unattended

On the first day of safety, we remind you to extinguish any lit candles when you leave the room, your house, or go to sleep. According to an NFPA study, candles start more than half of all home decoration structure fires, and most of those fires occur in December. (1)

Turn off tree lights, decorations, and portable space heaters when away or asleep

Did you know that local fire departments respond to more than 50,000 fires involving heating equipment (2) and more than 700 caused by decorations each year? (3) Be sure to unplug all of your lights, decorations, and portable space heaters when not in the same room.

Never throw wrapping paper in the fire

On the third day of safety, remember to never toss wrapping paper into the fireplace. Doing so could result in a flash fire because wrapping paper can ignite suddenly and burn intensely. (4)

Only use outdoor and indoor lights as indicated on their packaging

On the fourth day of safety, we remind you to only use lights tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Lights for both indoor and outdoor usage must meet different standards that testing laboratories can verify. Before using, be sure to check each set of lights – whether new or old – for  broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets and do not use electric lights on a metallic tree. Check outdoor lights for labels showing the lights have been certified for outdoor use, and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle or a portable GFCI. (5)

Don’t overload circuits, extension cords, or electrical sockets

Overloading circuits, extension cords, or electrical sockets could cause a fire. Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. (6)

Never leave cooking or baking unattended

Most people don’t realize that cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and that, as reported by the NFPA, unattended cooking equipment is a factor in one-third of reported home cooking fires and half of the associated deaths. (7) Be especially careful when you’re using the stove or cooktop and while frying foods. Always stay in the kitchen—even if you’re baking or roasting—and set a timer to remind yourself to check on cooking food.

Keep holiday plants away from pets

On the seventh day of safety, we remind you to keep festive holiday plants including poinsettias, mistletoe and holly out of pets’ reach. Ingesting any of these may cause a range of symptoms, while usually mild, ranging from stomach upset to low blood pressure. (8)

Check your smoke detector battery

On the eighth day of safety, we remind you that smoke detectors should be tested regularly and the batteries replaced at least once or twice a year. Mark your calendar to check your alarm during the holidays. A working smoke alarm cuts your risk of home fire death in half. (9)

Celebrate small and don't drink and drive

This year, planning a virtual holiday celebration or celebrating only with members of your own household poses the lowest risk of spreading COVID-19. If you do plan an in-person celebration, remember to wear a mask, maintain a distance of 6 feet, and wash hands frequently. (10) If you do plan a small gathering, there are other safety concerns to keep in mind – including that every year hundreds of people die in drunk driving accidents during the holiday season. (11) If you plan to drink alcohol, make sure you have a designated driver to get you and your loved ones home safe and sound. Or, consider using rideshare app.

Choose a fire-resistant artificial tree and be sure to water a natural tree daily

On average, more than 200 house fires are caused by Christmas trees each year. (12) To prevent this from happening to you, we remind you on the tenth day of safety to exercise caution when placing, decorating, and maintaining either kind of tree. Position your tree at least three feet away from a heat source and remember to keep natural trees hydrated. (13)

Maintain woodburning fireplaces and chimneys

Nothing is cozier than relaxing by the fire, but it’s especially important to have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional. Also, keep anything that can burn at least three-feet away from the fireplace, and maintain a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters. (13)

Travel safely and don’t overshare on social media

Social media is a great way to share what you and your family are doing for the holidays. However, if you are leaving your home for an extended period of time, we remind you on the twelfth day of safety not to put your plans or pictures on social media until after you return. You could be unintentionally inviting thieves to break into your house while you’re away. Also, keep in mind any federal and local guidelines for COVID-19 when making holiday travel arrangements this year. (14)

From your entire MSA family, we wish you a wonderful, warm, and safe holiday!

Danger in a Flash: What You Can Do About Arc Flash

Dangerous. Violent. Deadly. No, this isn’t the tagline for this past summer’s blockbuster, but a description of a very serious threat to anyone working around energized electrical equipment.

An arc flash, which is a lightning bolt–like release of heat and energy caused by an electrical fault, can lead to extensive damage to property and risk of injury and death to people.

Getting to know what arc flash is, what causes it, and what you can do about it can put you on your way to helping to prevent the serious effects of an arc flash.

What is arc flash?

An arc is the result of a flowing current traveling through air from an intended conductor to an unintended conductor or the ground—basically, electricity going through somewhere it shouldn’t go. The resulting electrical energy causes a flash, which produces a powerful, loud, extremely hot blast that can damage property, start a fire, and burn or even kill people who are nearby.

It’s also helpful to know some other related terms. Arc flash boundary is the distance at which an electrical arc can flash outward, which may endanger employees working on electrical equipment. During an arc fault, which is generally limited to systems where the bus voltage is in excess of 120 volts, the air is the conductor. Flash hazard analysis is a method used to determine the risk of personal injury as a result of exposure to incident energy from an electrical arc flash.

What causes arc flash?

There are two categories that describe an arc’s cause: spontaneous and inadvertent. A spontaneous arc results from a circumstance that creates an arc, like malfunctioning or failure of electrical equipment. In an inadvertent arc, a worker does something to cause the arc by not taking proper precautions for working with an energized circuit.

Potential causes of either type of arc can include

  • A tool falling into an energized environment
  • Dust
  • Accidental touching
  • Condensation
  • Creation of a spark
  • Corrosion
  • Faulty installation
  • Material failure

The severity of an arc flash-related injury depends on the following three factors:

  1. A worker’s proximity to the hazard
  2. Temperature
  3. Time for the circuit to break

What can you do about arc flash?

Safety starts with following formal regulations and other advice from reputable sources. It’s important that you adhere to related industry hazard protection requirements including American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z359, ASTM (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials) F887, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E, and OSHA 1910.269(L)(8).

In 2014’s OSHA 29 CFR Part 1910.269 for Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution; Electrical Protective Equipment, OSHA indicates that employers must assess the work environment and identify all workers who might be exposed to arc hazards. Then, they have to estimate that potential arc’s heat energy and provide the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing—that have an arc rating at least as high as the estimated heat energy—to these workers, along with informing them of potential hazards and delivering any necessary training for avoiding arc flash hazards and properly using equipment.

Some of the main ways to help prevent an arc flash include:

  • Installing approach boundaries
  • Applying hazard warnings that comply with NFPA standards
  • De-energizing live electrical parts (when doing so won’t pose a greater hazard)
  • Using the right equipment including insulated tools and arc flash–rated PPE

Personal Protective Equipment Must-Haves

If all else fails, you’ll need to rely on PPE to protect you. Can you depend on yours? Workers must be properly connected at height in the presence of arc flash hazards. Personal protective equipment like personal fall limiters, lanyards, harnesses, hard hats, and safety glasses should all include the following features:

  • An arc flash rating at least equal to the estimated heat energy
  • Resistance to high heat
  • Ability to self-extinguish, keep its structural integrity, and resist melting or igniting and burning when exposed
  • Lightweight fit

Fall protection PPE isn’t foolproof, but it can lessen the effects of an arc flash.

Learn more about our arc flash PPE to help keep your workers safe while on site. You can also download our whitepaper below to read more about arc flash safety.

Best Practices for Gas Sensor Placement and Installation

You’ve done your homework and purchased the right gas detectors for your facility. Now it’s time to install them. But how do you decide where the sensors should be placed?

You already know gas sensor placement is tied to the particulars of your unique facility. But beyond that—because you must take so many variables into account—you have no hard-and-fast rules to follow. However, in this post we’re highlighting some best practices you can consider when you’re ready to install your gas detectors.

We’ve identified three steps involved in the gas sensor installation process. 


Perform a potential gas hazard assessment within your facility.


Create drawings indicating all potential gas leak sites, as well as the severity of each site’s hazard potential.

The two main hazardous location categories are:

  1. Potential gas discharge points. These areas are locations where hazardous gases may be released, such as valve steam seals, gaskets, compression fittings, and expansion joints.
  2. Potential contact areas. These areas are locations where hazardous gases may endanger workers or damage equipment or property. Examples include populated areas; confined spaces; pits; stairwells; crawl spaces; shelters; and residential, business, and industrial environments located nearby.


As gases do not always behave consistently, consider air flow conditions as well as potential gas pocket areas before placing sensors.

In general, when placing gas sensors, you should consider the following principles:


  • Place sensors close to the possible gas/leak source.
  • Place sensors in areas where air currents are likely to produce the highest gas concentration, including areas where gas buildup is likely, such as corners or stopping points of gas-releasing moving devices.
  • Factor in the monitored gas’s vapor density when compared to air. Sensors should be located near the floor for gases or vapors three or four times heavier than air. They should be installed near the ceiling or roof to detect lighter-than-air gases.


  • Don’t place sensors near entrances or fresh air vents during representative room sampling, as sample concentrations will be diluted by incoming air.
  • Don’t mount the detector on a surface subject to vibration as it could damage the detector. Best practice is to anchor the detector to a wall or firm base rather than to a motor housing.

For additional DO’S and DON’TS, download the MSA Guide to Sensor Selection and Placement below.