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A HR’s guide to staying safe in the workplace around Christmas

With less than a weeks until Christmas, workplaces across the nation have transformed their offices into winter wonderlands as we celebrate Christmas with colleagues. 

For many, this was first festive season where workers can mingle together in person without Covid restrictions in the office. From decorating the Christmas tree to hanging tinsel around the office, Nick Higginson, CEO at Phoenix Health and Safety is on hand to offer his expertise to ensure leaders in business are fully equipped to protect their employees in the workplace over the festive period.

Sharing his expert knowledge, Nick explains the most common danger zones around the office and how to help mitigate them. 

  1. Using a ladder to decorate the Christmas tree

To create a welcoming environment for staff and visitors entering the office, reception areas are the ultimate location to display an office Christmas tree adorned with decorations.

According to Phoenix Health and Safety’s working at heights training, falls from heights are the third-highest cause of fatal injury in the workplace, so if you are planning on adding any lights and baubles to the tree, make sure your workforce is fully prepared to do it safely.

“If you are using a stepladder to decorate, make sure it’s an industrial ladder, not one for domestic use. Users should be trained in ladder work and should never use the top step. You can visit The Ladder Association website for more information on using ladders safely,” says Nick.

  1. Checking for faulty Christmas lights

An extra bit of glitz and glamour is always welcome during the winter months and fairy lights in the office are a great way to add some sparkle to the workplace, especially as the dark and dreary nights continue. 

“Before putting up your fairy lights, you’ll need a qualified electrician to perform a PAT (portable appliance testing) test to ensure that they work correctly and there aren’t any faulty wires that could cause a fire in the office. Once all the necessary checks have taken place, you’re fine to display them where you like – just be mindful not to overload the plug socket. 

“The best way to avoid faulty lights is by storing them correctly when not in use. Wrap them up around a cylinder so they’re easier to unravel and stop them from getting tangled. It also makes it easier to identify any damaged bulbs or loose wires as you untwist the string of lights” says Nick.

  1. Tidying up loose wires and dangly decorations 

Whether it’s an additional extension cable powering the speaker or tinsel adorning the doors, there are plenty of tripping hazards that come with the season. 

Nick advises: “To avoid unwanted accidents, keep any hanging decorations away from the doorframe so people don’t get caught or hurt. And make sure to tuck any loose wires safely out of the way from walkways. 

“Remember, any changes to the office, even for the festive season, should be assessed for hazards. Conducting an office risk assessment will identify any potential dangers in the workplace so that they can be removed before they cause harm.”

  1. Keeping flames under control

Nothing brings the winter ambience like festive candles dotted around the office, but open flames are a serious office safety no-go. 

Nick says: “While candles can bring a Christmas feel to the office, they also pose a major fire hazard. Open flames and tinsel are a dangerous combination, swap out the candles for battery-operated alternatives that can still offer a warm and festive atmosphere without posing a fire hazard.”

  1. Keep fire exits clear

“It may be that the extra touch your workplace needed was a Christmas tree and some festive decorations adorning the corner of the office, but before you haul the festive decorations into the office, make sure that they’re not a fire safety hazard. 

“With office decorations like the Christmas tree and gifts tucked underneath, ensure that you’re not blocking fire exits or routes out of the office. Your fire exit route should be easily visible and everyone on your premises should be able to follow this route without any obstructions,” says Nick.

Staying safe in the office this Christmas? Please visit Phoenix Health and Safety for expert advice.

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