Offices and workplaces suddenly start to feel all festive from the 1st December onwards, which can only be positive for worker morale, as people enter into the Christmas spirit and start to look forward to a jolly holiday. It’s easy to get a little giddy at this time of the year as decorations appear on desks, and trees make an appearance in reception areas, but it’s also easy to forget about health and safety issues, which can be a little careless.

There’s certainly a bit of confusion when it comes to establishing what is acceptable at Christmas from a health and safety perspective, and as one of the leading experts for health and safety in Ireland, we can say with confidence, it doesn’t have to be complicated, and you can still have fun, without endangering anybody.

So enjoy the festive season, but have a greater understanding of preparing and protecting your staff and your business from any dangers at Christmas, by appreciating a little more about the current regulations that are in place.

We can’t have decorations, can we?

How amazing does your workplace look when it’s been decorated with tinsel, twinkling lights and a perfectly decorated tree? The mere sight of festive decorations is enough to lift the mood in the office, and even the Grinch in accounts seems to be unusually merry at this time of year. Whilst there are no definitive rules about decorating workplaces at Christmas, each individual business will have their own set of rules.  Care should be taken when hanging decorations to prevent paintwork, plaster or ceiling tiles being damaged when they are taken down, resulting in additional costs.

What’s more, sensible precautions should be taken when hanging decorations, so the appropriate equipment should be used to prevent accidents or injuries, such as stepladders instead of office chairs.

There’s no special rule under health and safety law that prevents the hanging of decorations, you just need to be practical and careful, by taking sensible precautions such as:

  • Always use step ladders and never stand on desks or chairs
  • Make sure the decorations are kept away from flammable sources
  • Look for fire resistant labels on artificial trees
  • If you display a real tree, keep it away from natural heat sources, and make sure it doesn’t cause an obstruction.
  • Natural trees should also be kept watered for as long as they are displayed for, this can be done via a water stand, to prevent them drying out and becoming a fire risk.

How about fairy lights?

Flashing fairy lights make any business look seasonal, and whether you hang them on a tree, drape them across your desk, or display them at windows, all you need is a bit of sense to keep everyone safe. Whilst there are no specific requirements for festive lights to have an annual portable appliance test (PAT), certain precautions should be taken when you dress your office with coloured globes this year.

Visual checks are essential on lights to spot signs of damage including exposed inner wires, broken fitments and loose plugs which could all be dangerous. Care should be taken when displaying fairy lights too. If you have to stretch when you are putting them up, you will need a stepladder to comfortably secure them in place.

Basic suggestions for displaying fairy lights safely include:

  • Watch out for trailing leads on extension cords
  • Make sure the leads are the correct rating for use
  • Check the lights have safety marks
  • Examine the lights for signs of damage
  • Keep the lights clear of flammable materials
  • Turn the lights off when you leave the office at night

Think about exterior workplace health and safety  

The inside of your office might look like Santa’s grotto, but how does the exterior look, and how safe is it to gain access to your building? A few decorations outside the building will make the business look festive and inviting, just pay close attention to the weather, and in particular, check for signs of snow and ice.

Employers have a responsibility to ensure the workplace is as safe as ‘reasonably practicable’ and therefore, you need to address the impact caused by ice and snow and take sensible steps to reduce the risks. Whilst you can’t exactly use a snowplough to clear the approach road to your business, you can at least clear away snow from directly outside your building, and use grit on paths, car parks and communal areas which might be slippery and treacherous.

Consider these suggestions when addressing exterior building safety over Christmas:

  • Clear snow from footpaths
  • Use grit on the paths afterwards
  • Lay grit in car parks too
  • Cordon off dangerous areas such as locations where snow is falling from the roof

Don’t forget to have fun!

Of course, there’s a genuine danger you might become a little obsessed with health and safety over Christmas, and be too worried to have fun. Nobody is trying to spoil your mood, and most businesses are more ‘happy holidays’ than ‘humbug’, so enjoy this special time of the year, just be careful when it comes to health and safety.

Here at Business Safety, we are leading experts in professional safety, environment and quality management services and we are looking forward to Christmas just as much as anyone. If you would like health and safety advice in the run-up to Christmas, or at any time of the year, we have a range of specialist services to offer you.

To find out more, please contact us here and leave a message in our online enquiry form. You can also call to speak to us in person on 021 2355 800 or nationwide on 0818333212.