As the holiday season rolls around again, your business will have new safety considerations to confront.
From holiday parties and risk of electrical shock to fires and trips and falls, companies have a set of safety and risk management challenges that may not be present during most of the year.
If you are hanging Christmas lights, you have to be aware that they pose a danger of both shock and fire. Also, when you add holiday decorations in the workplace, you increase the chances of trips and falls both when putting up the decorations and after they’ve been put up.
Christmas lights cause electric shocks or fire because of two main things. One is choosing the wrong kind of lights or a product that is of poor quality. The other is the improper use and maintenance of the lights.
As for falls, we all know how pretty it is to have Christmas lights twinkling and blinking from trees and roofs, buildings and windows that are a couple of floors up. That’s why it’s not hard to imagine this type of accident striking anyone during this colorful season, while it is especially true for employees working for businesses that celebrate Christmas with festive decorations.
Safety while decorating
Keep all relevant OSHA regulations in mind when decorating your workplace: both when in the process of decorating and making sure you don’t create new safety hazards that will last for the duration of the month.
Without proper planning, holiday decorations can result in dangerous tripping hazards. Avoid placing Christmas trees, gifts or freestanding decorations in heavily trafficked areas where people might run into or trip over them.
It’s also essential to make sure that your holiday décor in no way compromises the ability of workers and visitors to exit the workplace in the event of an emergency.
When members of your staff are decorating the office, ensure that they stick to the same safety guidelines that they would otherwise follow:
- Ladder safety – Make sure that your staff doesn’t stand on tables, desk or rolling desk chairs when hanging lights or other decorations. Insist that they use ladders and that they have a partner to hold the ladder when they are working on high.
- Keep walkways unobstructed – You may have boxes of Christmas decorations that you bring out every year, or you may purchase new decorations too. When employees are decorating, make sure they keep all walkways free of wires, cords, boxes or any of the material you are putting up. When people are working in a disorderly fashion, they can easily trip and fall.
- Install wisely – Also make sure that your staff does not put up decorations in a way that can impede movement of your workers or office visitors, or create trip hazards or expose staff to getting caught in the decorations.
- Unobstructed exits – Do not place any type of decorative items in exit corridors or on sprinklers. It’s essential to verify that none of your decorations block exit signage or fire safety equipment.
- Consider an artificial tree, which poses less risk than a live one.
- If you have a live tree, make sure that it is properly watered so it doesn’t dry out, which is a fire hazard.
- Live trees can be safer when sprayed with flame retardant.
- Put your tree in an area that doesn’t impede foot traffic or movement of workers.
- Don’t put live trees near heat sources such as space heaters, where they can dry out and pose a greater fire hazard.
- Use LED lights. Not only do they burn cool, they are also more economical because they only use 10% of the electricity consumed by other bulbs.
- Use lights that are recommended by a reputable testing laboratory. Such lights are usually labeled “UL” or “ETL”.
- Prior to use, inspect lights and extension cords for defects or damage. Check for loose connections, cracked or broken sockets and bare or frayed wires. Workers should report all defects to their supervisor.
- Immediately replace burned-out bulbs with ones that have the same wattage. Unplug Christmas lights when replacing bulbs.
- Make sure you don’t create a maze of wires, cords and plugs when plugging in Christmas lighting.
- Never use outdoor lights indoors.
- Make sure Christmas lights and other electrical outdoor decorations are plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter. This device helps prevent electric shock and fire.
- Never use nails or tacks to secure cords of lights. Also, don’t run strings of lights through hooks.
- Never pull on a string of Christmas lights.
- Always turn off Christmas lights before leaving the business premises. Never leave them on overnight.