I have often been asked if safety professionals celebrate Christmas or do we just stop employees and the public enjoying the festive period. I always give the same answer; Christmas is a time of celebration to be spent with family and friends. Health and safety is never mentioned in that sentence.
However, there will no doubt be some media article in the next few weeks suggesting that on health and safety grounds someone has been stopped from putting up decorations or a Christmas tree or lights and prevented people from the enjoying a festive party. On past experience, the vast majority if not all those headlines will have nothing to with health and safety but quite often health and safety is used as an excuse for the real reason. Scrooge maybe!
In over 30 years as a practitioner I have never known a health and safety professional ban Christmas decorations, put them up properly and safely yes, but ban – definitely NO. In fact last year at our staff children’s Christmas party we not only had Father Christmas, but he brought two of his reindeer with him. We prepared in advance; created a safe landing for him, his sledge and reindeer and everyone had a great time. Health and safety was considered before the event to help things run smoothly but it was all done quietly behind the scenes.
Don’t always believe what you read.
It would be remiss of me not offer some simple advice or things to consider, they are simple “common sense” issues that will not prevent anyone from celebrating;
- Don’t let decorations obstruct smoke or heat detectors.
- Don’t obstruct safety signage particularly if you have strangers on site.
- Restrict electrical cables, extensions as far as possible. Tape wires to the floor or use cable protectors, or run them along walls to prevent people falling over them.
- Try not to use too many extension leads.
- Switch off Christmas lights when the workplace is empty.
- If you want external lighting make sure the cabling and connections are appropriate for external use and are appropriately isolated / protected.
- Step ladders can be used to hang decorations, just make sure they are fit for purpose and secure when in use. Don’t over reach when hanging the decorations or lights, move the steps closer.
- If you have motion sensitive security detection be aware that sometimes decorations will move in the air because of currents created by heating / ventilation systems. Many a security false alarm has been down to moving decorations hanging from the office ceiling.
- You can celebrate Christmas, whatever the media might imply.
Can I wish all our clients and your employees a happy and safe festive period and should you need any H&S advice from my team please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0844 892 2772.