Are Your Christmas Lights Safe?

SGS, the world’s leading inspection,
verification, testing and certification company, is reminding consumers and
manufacturers of the importance of ensuring their seasonal lights are safe and
comply with the relevant rules enforced in the US.

Statistics produced by the National
Fire Protection Association (NFPA) show that, on average, US fire departments
respond to 160 house fires caused by Christmas trees every year, resulting in three
deaths, fifteen injuries and USD 10 million in damage. The primary cause of
these fires relates to electrical distribution or lighting equipment.

In the
US, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has determined that decorative
seasonal lights present a risk of electric chock or fire if they do not exhibit
one or more of the following “readily observable safety characteristics”:

  • Minimum
    wire size
  • Sufficient
    strain relief
  • Overcurrent

Section 15(j) of the Consumer Product
Safety Act (CPSA) gives the CPSC the authority to determine a product as posing
a ‘substantial product hazard’ if it has or does not have certain
characteristics. While no mandatory safety standard for this product has been
established, under section 15(b) of CPSA 15 U.S.C. 2064(b) they are subject to
reporting requirements. If a manufacturer fails to report a ‘substantial
product hazard’, they may be subject to civil penalties under section 20 of the
CPSA and possible criminal penalties under section 21 of the CPSA 15 U.S.C.
2069, 2070. The product will also be subject to corrective actions under sections
15(c & d) of the CPSA 15 U.S.C. 2064(c & d) and the CPSC can demand the
manufacturer, distributor or retailer offers repair, replacement or refund of
the product. Consumer products that are deemed a ‘substantial product
hazard’ will also be refused importation into the US under section 17(a) of the
CPSA. 15 U.S.C. 2066(a).

The simplest way to ensure seasonal or decorative lights comply with the
requirement for three “readily observable safety characteristics”, is to conform to the UL
588 Safety Standard for Seasonal and Holiday Decorative Products. This standard
covers seasonal decorative lighting products and accessories for temporary use
– installation and use not exceeding 90 days – with a maximum input voltage
rating of 120 V to be used in accordance with the National Electrical Code,
ANSI/NFPA 70. It covers factory-assembled lighting strings with push-in,
midget-screw, miniature-screw lamp holders, or non-replaceable lamps connected
in series for across-the-line use or with candelabra- or intermediate-screw
lamp holders connected in parallel for direct-connection use. The standard also
covers a variety of other seasonal decorative products, including wreaths,
stars and lighting sculptures. It does not cover strings of lights that use
lamp holders that are larger than intermediate-screw and non-seasonal products.
It also does not apply to portable electric lamps intended for general
illumination with a seasonal decoration.

Sections 6, 7, 15,
71, 79 and SB15 of this standard cover minimum wire size, sufficient strain
relief, and overcurrent protection (fuses).

Compliance with this
standard is not mandatory for domestic decorative lights, but it is advisable since
it ensures accordance with the requirements relating to “readily observable
safety characteristics.” It should also be noted that Christmas lights
used in a commercial setting must conform to UL588 and be certified by a
Nationally recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), such as SGS. This even applies
to decorative lights that are sold for domestic use, but which are then used in
a commercial environment.

SGS NRTL Services

SGS helps manufacturers and suppliers quickly
and efficiently get their electrical and electronic (E&E) products onto
markets in the US and Canada. As an NRTL, SGS can test and certify a wide range
of products and, with E&E experts in over 20 laboratories worldwide, can
help deliver innovative solutions to help get products onto North American
markets in a minimal timeframe. Learn more about the SGS NRTL Services.

SGS Consumer Compact keeps you up to date with the latest news and developments in the
consumer goods industry. Read the original article,
Seasonal Lights Staying Safe at Christmas.

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About SGS

SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification,
testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark
for quality and integrity. With more than 89,000 employees, SGS operates a
network of over 2,600 offices and laboratories around the world.

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