Safety tips for Christmas decorating

Offices can be made to look very merry with Christmas decorations – but be wary of the possible dangers involved.

Unless managers plan to play Scrooge during Advent – which would not be a very wise way of proceeding, given its likely impact on morale and staff relations – it is clearly time to be getting the bunting out. Over the next couple of weeks, offices across the country will be covered in paper chains, tinsel, trees and more to mark the festive season.

Stay safe
While allowing the general festivity to be part of the scene in the office during these weeks, it is, however, important to be aware of potential health and safety issues. Of course, health and safety can get a bad name at Christmas. Everyone has seen the tabloid headlines about councils using this to avoid marking the occasion, alongside accusations of “political correctness gone mad”. There is no reason, of course, to think that having Christmas decorations up per se is risky, but there are some obvious common sense steps that can be taken to prevent any major mishaps.

Dangling could spell disaster
Firstly, consider issues of working at height. You might want to hang decorations or paper chains from the ceiling or high up on the walls. This should really only be done if you have ladders that can safely get people up high enough. If not, you could find someone is perched very precariously and at risk of an accident. While nobody wants to be a killjoy, there is a point where a line needs to be drawn, especially when there is a risk of prosecution under health and safety law.

Avoid tree topples
A Christmas tree can be a great addition to an office, but once again, a few sensible checks should take place. Firstly, make sure it is securely in place, especially if it is a large tree. After all, nothing could be worse than it falling on someone, and such a calamity could also damage equipment too.

Trip hazards and fires
If you have fairy lights on the tree – or anywhere else in the office – make sure the leads are running safely along the floor. Use tape to keep them in place if possible. This will prevent them becoming trip hazards. There are certainly some kinds of Christmas decoration that should be avoided altogether – like candles. These can add plenty of atmosphere when lit after dark, of course, but there is an obvious fire hazard, not least in an office where there will be lots of flammable materials like paper about. If you want to enjoy some Christmas candles with your colleagues, you could attend a carol service together instead. Even your fairy lights could pose problems, particularly if they are too close to heat sensors, which could inadvertently trigger the fire alarm.

Check your equipment
Finally, make sure the decorations themselves are safe. If you are buying new ones, purchase them from reputable retailers and check they have all the appropriate safety marks, so you are not bringing in something that might trigger an electrical fire into the office. Finally, ensure anything you used last year and is being taken out of storage is still in safe condition. Electrical items can deteriorate, while anything broken may have sharp edges. You should certainly replace a damaged tree rather than propping it up and hoping it won’t topple.

By keeping your decorations and decorating safe, you can help ensure a merry Christmas in the office without any midwinter misery.

Posted by: Becky Cheall

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