Bah Humbug - The Health & Safety Hazards of Office Decorations
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
Ready to bring festive sparkle to your office space?
Without wishing to be all bah humbug about decorating for the festive season, there are a few health and safety tips that it’s worth bearing in mind to ensure that the festivities don’t literally ‘go with a bang’!
Christmas trees come in all sizes and shapes, real and artificial, snowy and coloured. Whichever type of tree you chose, the best way to ensure it doesn’t cause any injuries, we recommend:
Making sure the tree is secure, firmly fixed to a secure base and can’t topple over.
Allow sufficient space for erecting and dressing the tree.
If your tree is awkward, heavy or unevenly weighted, you may benefit from using a trolley or sack truck to manoeuvre it. Don’t forget that lifting a tree may be a manual handling hazard.
Beware of skin irritation which can be caused by the tree materials, fake snow, or chemicals sprayed on real trees. If you’re susceptible to skin irritation, it may be better to be at the back of the queue of volunteers for putting the tree up, or wearing protective gloves.
Always try to use flame retardant tinsel and non-combustible decorations.
Take care with broken and fragile baubles and decorations with the potential to shatter and cause injuries.
Any electrically powered decorations such as lights, lanterns, festive backlit scenes etc have potential to cause an electric shock or fire hazard.
It’s important to inspect everything before plugging in to the electric and switching on, looking for:
Look at the cable for damaged insulation, bare wires or any other sign of damage.
With fuses, make sure the correct amperage fuse is fitted.
Is the plug damaged? Both the casing and wiring should be perfectly intact.
Avoid the use of multiple electrical adaptors.
Uncoil all wiring.
Avoid trailing cables across walkways.
Ensure all items are switched off at night or when the workplace is unattended for long periods.
If lights are for exterior displays, ensure they are specifically designed for outdoor use.
Consider the use of safety devices such as a residual current monitor.
Traditionally many decorations are hung from ceilings and other high places. To enable staff to pin up tinsel, garlands and strings of cards, ensure stable and safe step ladders are used to avoid the need to stand on tables, chairs, tables and boxes to gain additional height.
Consider using the correct type of step ladders for the task, fitted with handrails if possible and ensure they are safe and fit for purpose before climbing up.
Make sure that employees have received appropriate training for safe use of steps.
When using the steps:
Set up the steps on level ground.
Think about where you’re working – if you’re behind a door, warn others that you’re there or put a sign on the door.
Consider asking a colleague to stand at the bottom to provide stability.
Hanging decorations should not be near electrical fittings, lights, heaters etc.
Don’t hang decorations in doorways or low ceiling areas where people will have to duck to avoid walking into them.
Ask others to pass decorations to you to reduce the need to move up and down the steps and stretch to reach.
Don’t overstretch, move the steps closer.
If working outside consider weather conditions, slippery surfaces etc.
Decorations are often placed anywhere and everywhere to brighten up the workplace, but it’s important to consider fire safety when deciding what decorations go where. Workplaces must have suitable, portable fire fighting equipment.
Don’t overload the electrical supply which will cause excessive heat and could start a fire.
Avoid draping or placing decorations on or near to electrical heaters, gas fires or naked flames.
Avoid using naked flames and candles.
Ensure any lit decorations are turned off when the workplace is unattended
Confirm your fire detection and alarm systems function correctly, that escape routes and doors are unobstructed.
Nobody wants to be a bah humbug killjoy but we want everyone to have an enjoyable festive season without incident. Please take care and enjoy the Christmas period.
Need support with Health & Safety in your business?
Want to delegate H&S Competent person to an external professional to ensure you’re compliant?
Get in touch on HandS@robinsongracehr.com or give us a call on 07970 260104 to discuss how we can support your health and safety.
Check out other Blogs in our series:
Understanding your Health & Safety Responsibilities as a Company Director (robinsongracehr.com)
Personal Protective Equipment at Work (robinsongracehr.com)
The Perils of Christmas for Pets (robinsongracehr.com)
The content of our blogs is intended for general information only and does not replace legal or other professional advice.