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Birthday Hazards, Part 2: Scissors, Wrap and String

Today, we continue our series on homeowner liability for party-related hazards with a look at the unexpected hazards arising from wrapping supplies, and how to mitigate those dangers.

SCISSORS

14C04 Scissors

Most people know that scissors can be dangerous. In fact, “running with scissors” is a common euphemism for hazardous behavior. ¬†Unfortunately, the whirl of activities surrounding a birthday party often causes people to leave scissors lying around where small children may discover and wander off with them.

In some cases, parents keep scissors on hand to help with difficult ribbons and wrap while a child opens presents during a party. However, misplaced or carelessly discarded scissors may result in serious injury, or even death, to a child who takes them for play.

Take care to put away supplies, including scissors, promptly after wrapping packages or using them before, during, or after a party. If scissors may be needed during the party itself, place them out of reach of children–and remember, children may use chairs or steps tools to reach attractive items, so whenever possible, place scissors in a secure location and out of sight.

WRAPPING PAPER AND BAGS

Wrapping paper tears easily, and presents few hazards aside from paper cuts. However, other wrapping choices may present serious dangers. Plastic bags and mylar or plastic wrap pose both choking and suffocation hazards for pets and children.

Never allow a child or a pet to play with plastic bags, or plastic wrapping materials. In addition, be sure to clean up discarded wrapping materials promptly after presents are opened (and clear away leftovers after presents are wrapped). Homeowners are liable for foreseeable injuries which occur on their property, and a child placing a plastic bag over his or her head may be considered a “foreseeable” event.

RIBBONS AND BOWS

14C04 Bows 2

Like the balloon strings we discussed last week, ribbons can present an attractive, but dangerous, hazard to children and pets. Children may tie loose ribbons around necks, arms, or legs, cutting off circulation or causing choking and suffocation. Never leave children unattended with ribbons or strings.

Some people substitute ¬†“pre-tied” stick-on bows in place of lengthy ribbons, especially for parties where young children will be in attendance. These bows are often made with several shorter pieces of ribbons tied together, eliminating the possibility of strangulation – but increasing the danger of choking in the event the bows are disassembled or eaten.

Always supervise young children and pets carefully during parties, and clear away discarded and leftover ribbons promptly. Do not assume a “pre-assembled” bow will be safer, or free of hazards.

GOOD PLANNING CAN HELP AVOID ACCIDENTS

Birthday parties and other events should be occasions for joy and celebration. Fortunately, the hazards discussed above, and others, can often be avoided with minimal planning and vigilance. Here are some tips to help keep your party safe:

– Wrap presents in advance, and use materials appropriate for the recipient’s age. For example, plastic bags are a poor choice to wrap a present for very young children.

– Clear away leftover wrapping materials and tools, like scissors, promptly.

– Clean up discarded wrapping supplies promptly after presents are opened.

– Keep a vigilant eye on presents, pets, and children to ensure that stray ribbons and wrapping material are not eaten or used in inappropriate ways.

With these, and other careful actions, homeowners can help keep birthday parties, and other occasions, safe as well as fun.

© Ross Law, 2014

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