Managing the risk of Christmas decorations in the workplace

Friday December 21, 2018

Christmas is a time for cheer, eating too many minced pies and showing people how much you appreciate them. And this is no different in the workplace.

Many businesses will get in the Christmas spirit by organising a Christmas meal or drinks, and perhaps a round of Secret Santa too. And many offices will put out some festive decorations.

But it’s important to bear in mind health and safety when decorating the office in tinsel, glitter and baubles.

What’s the risk of a few baubles?

The first step to having a festive workplace is putting up the decorations. In all the excitement many would be forgiven for thinking there’s no harm in quickly grabbing a chair to stand on and asking someone to pass the Blu Tack and mistletoe. However, this opens up the risk that employees might injure themselves as they stretch to decorate the tree or fix stars to the ceiling.

And then there are the dangers when the decorations are up. Decorations can be a potential fire or trip hazard, with all the extra bits and pieces lying around, as well as the tree and the tree’s lights. You don’t have to search too hard on the web to find scary footage of Christmas trees going up in flames.

Depending on who (or what!) spends time in your workspace, smaller decorations could be a choking hazard. An office pet – cats are sworn enemies of Christmas trees and may consider eating a decoration as an act of dominance over them – for instance. Or if your workspace is public-facing like a cafe, could a toddler take too close an interest in your Nordmann Fir?

Interestingly, tinsel has been found to interfere with some touchscreens, so take care, particularly if you have touchscreens which control machinery or critical medical equipment.

Christmas isn’t an excuse: employers are still liable for injuries in the workplace.

What can you do to avoid the risks?

Make sure you have a space properly planned out for your office Christmas tree, and that it doesn’t block anyone in or out, or access to anything. Ensure it’s carried into the building properly, and that when it’s set up, it is standing steady and isn’t at risk of toppling over.

When it comes to tree lights, it’s important to check new lights for damage.

You should also provide staff with suitable step ladders to put up decorations, rather than leaving them no choice but to balance on tables and chairs.

The Health and Safety Executive says that, with the obvious precautions taken care of, there is no reason your workspace can’t be decorated with a Christmas tree, tinsel, baubles, Christmas lights and all the trimmings.

If you would like expert advice or a review of your existing health and safety policies, call our dedicated Health and Safety team on 0345 208 1120 or email info@hsdept.co.uk.

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