Christmas lights - electrical safety
The purpose of this Safety Alert is to highlight the dangers of fire and electric shock which may result from the incorrect use of Christmas lights.
Christmas lights are an exciting sign of the festive season, but used incorrectly can cause electric shocks or fires. Before decorating your home or garden, please consider:
- using the appropriate Christmas lights for indoors or outdoors
- safely decorating with lights.
It is important to buy the lights most appropriate for where they will be used.
Light safety around children
If you think children may accidentally come into contact with Christmas light bulbs, look for lights marked “safety extra low voltage”.
Metal fencing and other metal objects
If you will be decorating your fence or other areas made of metal, transformer type Christmas lights with “safety extra low voltage” bulbs are a good option for these locations.
Please follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using Christmas lights.
Purchasing safe Christmas lights
Christmas lights require an Australian certificate of approval before they can be sold. Buy your lights from a reputable dealer who will know the electrical equipment safety requirements for selling Christmas lights in Australia.
What to look for
When buying new Christmas light kits look for an approval number (e.g. Q12345, V12345, N12345, NSW12345) or the regulatory compliance mark logo which indicates compliance with Australian Standards. These marks must be on the Christmas lights and are normally found on a plastic tag near the supply plug or on the transformer body if it is an extra low voltage type. The markings may also be printed on the packaging.
Only buy lights that have an approval mark.
Buying lights online
Beware of buying Christmas lights online from other countries. Other countries have different electrical systems and safety standards and the products may be unsafe for use in Australia.
Beware when buying second hand
Safety requirements for Christmas lights have changed in recent years so second hand lights may not meet the latest safety requirements.
A good way to check the condition of old Christmas lights is to see if the plug has “insulated pins”. If it does not have insulated pins then the Christmas lights may be very old and may not meet the latest safety requirements.
If you buy second hand Christmas lights you should have them checked by a licensed electrical contractor before you use them.
Checking your old Christmas lights
Before using last year’s Christmas lights, unravel them and look at the plug, leads and lampholders to check there are no exposed wires or damaged controllers, lampholders or bulbs. If you have any concerns about the safety of the Christmas lights get them checked out by a licensed electrical contractor.
Read the manufacturer's instructions for installation and follow all safety warnings.
Do not alter or modify any lighting equipment.
Using your lights safely
Consider the following to keep your family safe this Christmas.
If you will be using lights indoors only and protected from the weather, then it’s acceptable to buy lights suitable “for indoor use only”. The marking “for indoor use only” will be on the Christmas light, usually on the plastic label tag near the supply plug or on the transformer rating label if the lights are extra low voltage. It will also be clearly marked on the box.
- do you have a working smoke alarm?
- do you have a safety switch? Test it before installing Christmas lights
- make sure electrical leads are safe. Never use a damaged lead
- fully unwind all extension leads to avoid overheating
- ensure all lights, extension leads and powerboards are suitable for what you are using them for
- if you have a living Christmas tree, switch off and unplug lights when watering the tree
- turn off Christmas lights before going to bed.
If the lights are for outdoors or on verandas or where they can be affected by the weather, only buy Christmas lights marked “suitable for outdoor use”. The marking will usually be on the plastic label tag or transformer rating label and may have an “IP” rating (i.e. IPX3, IP23, IP44) – the higher the numbers the better the weatherproof rating.
Some types of Christmas lights suitable for outdoors require the transformer (plug) to be located indoors and away from any effects of weather. Some may only be suitable for temporary use outdoors. If you want to leave lights outside leading up to Christmas, consider solar powered lights.
- all outdoor connections must be weatherproof. Weatherproofing accessories are available for purchase
- don’t put Christmas lighting around or above swimming pools
- do not leave leads lying in water or wet areas
- don’t run electrical leads over walkways or driveways
- avoid passing leads through doorways and windows
- secure lights to protect them from breaking in wind or storms
- always turn off outdoor Christmas lighting at the fixed socket outlet in rainy or stormy weather
- flood, halogen and other high powered lights can become very hot. Keep them out of reach and away from anything that might catch fire
- be aware that using multiple high-powered lamps may overload your electric circuits.
This Safety Alert contains safety information following inquires made by NT WorkSafe about an incident or unsafe practice. The information contained in this Alert does not necessarily include the outcome of NT WorkSafe’s action with respect to an incident. NT WorkSafe does not warrant the information in this Alert is complete or up-to-date and does not accept any liability for the information in this report or as to its use.Reproduced with permission from Electrical Safety Office (Department of Justice and Attorney-General) Queensland Government.