Seasonal Liabilities: How to celebrate the holidays safely
The colder months in the UK bring along a host of the most anticipated holidays and events – Halloween, Bonfire Night, Diwali, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. Lots of these events in the Calendar see us decorating our homes and gardens but it’s important that you decorate the exterior of your property safely so that any visitors, be it trick-or-treaters or carol singers, come to no accidental harm whilst on your property.
Barratt Homes have put together a helpful guide to help you decorate your home as safely as possible for Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas…yes that’s next.
One thing to remember when creating a creepy porch for Halloween, is that the excited children (and adults!) who will be trick-or-treating need to be able to safely pass through to get to your front door.
As a homeowner or occupier of a property you owe a duty of care to visitors, and you may find yourself liable if any accidents are caused by the dangerous condition of your property or the decorations you install.
This duty of care means you should make sure your property is ‘reasonably safe’ including any driveway or steps. If you are aware of a specific hazard, you must take measures to highlight the hazard to those approaching your property. To ensure that no one is hurt on their night of trick-or-treating, set up decorations that will keep your house well-lit, and always double check that your lights and their wires will not create a hazard for visitors. It is also important to make sure that your driveway / stairs or any other entry points to your home are free from items that could cause people to trip on or walk into.
Exterior decorating tips
- Lanterns, candles, and lights can obviously all be fire hazards. Make sure you place these out of the direct path to your door and directly around your entrance. Remember that many kids will be wearing masks during Halloween so might have impaired vision.
- Lights and candles lit indoors should be kept clear of curtains, decorations, and other flammable objects. If you can, use LED lights instead of candles.
- If you are using a lot of electrical lights for your outdoor Halloween display, make sure you check the lights and cords for frayed or bare wires. Do not overload your extension leads and ensure there are no wires that could become a trip hazard to little monsters coming up your path.
- Keep your pets in a safe area. The last thing you want is your cat to escape out the door or your excited dog to knock down a child. Make sure you keep your pets secure in your house or garden during Halloween night.
The law in the UK is governed by the Occupier’s Liability Act 1957 (Lawful Visitors) and Occupier’s Liability Act 1984 (Persons other than Visitors). You do not have a duty to prevent all accidents, but you are obliged to deliver reasonable care for the safety of visitors to your property. Ensuring everything is safe covers your home insurance and any unwanted liabilities.
Bonfire Night & Firework safety
Expect the sky to be lit up with fireworks as the nation celebrates Guy Fawkes Night and Diwali this November.
If you’re staying at home hosting your own display, be careful not to fall foul of the law.
Many people don’t realise there are strict guidelines as to when you can let off fireworks, where and what type. Get it wrong and you could be fined or put yourself or others at risk.
What you need to know
Having people over in your garden to enjoy your display is fine and completely legal. Some things you might not know are:
- Only set off fireworks and light sparklers on your property, it’s against the law to set off fireworks in public places – and you can face a hefty fine if you do.
- You are only usually allowed to set fireworks off between 11am – 7pm, but the time is extended to midnight on Bonfire Night, and 1am on New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year.
- Fireworks are only sold in the UK between October 15th to November 10th and December 26th to the 31st.
- Remember to look after pets too – for many dogs this is their least favourite time of the year!
It’s important to know that you can be fined up to £5,000 and imprisoned for up to six months for selling or using fireworks illegally. You could also get an on-the-spot fine of £90.
Whilst there are no laws against having a bonfire in your own garden, there are regulations put in place regarding the nuisance they can cause.
Tips you need to follow to keep safe
- They must not cause a nuisance to your neighbours.
- Control the smoke to make sure it doesn’t drift across the roads and become a danger to motorists.
- Do not burn household waste causing pollution, such as aerosols, tyres, or paint as many can produce toxic fumes.
- Tell your neighbours so they can close windows or remove washing from clothes lines.
- Don’t use petrol or paraffin to get the fire going.
- Build the bonfire away from sheds, fences, and trees.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby in case of emergencies.
- Don’t leave the bonfire unattended.
- Don’t throw any fireworks into the fire.
- A responsible adult should supervise the bonfire until it has burnt out.
- Once the bonfire has died down, spray the embers with water and make sure it is completely extinguished before leaving it.
Like Halloween, it’s important that any decorations such as lights and signs outside homes and gardens provide no hazards to the increased numbers of visitors (including delivery drivers) that we tend to have over the festive period.
Homeowners should also be mindful about wildlife and local pets when putting up exterior decorations. Avoiding disturbing birds’ nests when putting up decorations in trees or buses for example. Whilst it is generally wild birds’ nest that are protected by law in the UK, disturbing a bird’s nest should generally be avoided as should laying out decorations that cats or dogs could chew or choke on.
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