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 for celebration and enjoyment, time spent with family and friends”. No mention of health and safety there; but there will almost certainly be some media article in the coming weeks suggesting that someone somewhere has been stopped from putting up decorations or a Christmas tree or lights on health and safety grounds and that elf and safety have prevented some people from 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 as an excuse for the real reason. Cost or business disruption maybe! In all my years as a practitioner I have never known a health and safety professional ban Christmas decorations, ensure that they are put up properly and safely - yes, but ban definitely not. Here at Peninsula our staff children’s Christmas party has in recent years been visited not only by Father Christmas but also by some of his reindeer. On another occasion he brought some penguins with him. We prepared in advance, created a safe landing for him, his sledge and reindeer; and the penguins and everyone had a great time. Health and safety issues were considered before the event as part of the normal planning process to help things run smoothly. It was all done quietly behind the scenes. It would, though, 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 ladies in particular with those very high party shoe heels, falling over them.
- Try not to use too many extension leads.
- Check last year’s Christmas lights before using them again. Most are low voltage and double insulated so check that the plug and transformer are not damaged and show no obvious signs of damage before using them. Don’t forget to switch them off when the workplace is empty.
- If you want external lighting make sure that cables and connectors are in good condition and appropriate for external use and out of harm’s way.
- Step ladders can be used to hang decorations, just make sure they are fit for purpose and secure. Don’t over reach when hanging the decorations or lights, move the steps closer.
- Where there are motion sensitive security detectors be aware that some decorations will move in the air currents created by heating and ventilation systems. Many a late night, early morning false alarm has been down to moving decorations hanging from the office ceiling.
- For unconventional issues don’t just say no. Do what we did carefully consider the hazards and reasonably foreseeable risks (not the extreme remotely possible risks) and how they might be controlled. Consider and plan with thought and care.
You can celebrate Christmas whatever the media might imply. Our health and safety advice team is here on 0844 892 2785 should you have any concerns or questions on this or other issues. They will also be available 24/7 over the Christmas period to assist members requiring advice at that time. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need assistance. Finally, with just 4 weeks until the big day may I wish all our members and their employees a happy and safe festive period and a prosperous New Year.