It’s that time of year again. Holiday shopping lists are being written, classes are winding down, and many people are busy transforming their home or office into a winter wonderland. Decorations help create a fun and festive atmosphere, but they can also introduce new hazards to a workplace. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare for the holiday season:
Before the industrial revolution, Christmas trees were illuminated with candles that were placed on the tree’s branches. This combination of wood, wax and flame led to some unfortunate, and predictable, results. Fortunately for us, electric lighting now serves as a safe, cheap, and reliable alternative to decorating with open flames. However, strands of electric holiday lights can also cause a variety of hazardous situations. Here are some tips for using them safely:
- Don’t overdo it: Limit your use of holiday lights to what your work area’s electrical outlets can handle. “Daisy chaining” power strips and extension cords to plug in several strands of lights could overload circuits and increase the risk of a fire.
- Hang it up: Use tape or temporary hooks to secure lights to walls, ceilings, or cubicle surfaces. Avoid stapling or nailing cords into place. Staples and nails could damage the insulation of the wiring, which makes sparking and electrocutions more likely.
- Shut it down: Make sure someone is responsible for turning off all additional office lighting at the end of each day. Leaving lights on all night will run up the company’s electricity bill and could cause a fire while the building is unattended. Better yet, use timer devices to shut the lights off automatically.
Following standard electrical safety practices when installing lights will help control your facility’s fire hazards, but additional fire safety issues need to be considered when making holiday preparations. All decorative materials should be made of non-combustible material, and candles should not be used under any circumstances. Also, make sure your office’s decorations do not interfere with sprinkler or alarm systems, exit signs or evacuation routes. This means decorations should not be hung from sprinkler heads, exit signs or fire extinguishers. Larger decorative displays should be positioned so they do not block doors or walkways.
Slips, trips, and falls are some of the most common causes of workplace injury. Decorating is a non-routine task that can make these types of injuries even more likely. To avoid slips, trips, and falls while setting up for the holidays:
- Watch your step: If decorating requires you to access elevated areas, make sure you stand on a stable platform. When decorating the office, use step ladders to access hard-to-reach areas. Avoid standing on common office objects like desks, chairs, or boxes of supplies.
- Watch out for each other: Cords for holiday decorations can be a trip hazard to pedestrians. When decorating your workspace, keep others in mind. Avoid running cords across walkways, and tape down any cords that are at or near floor level.
Source: Texas Mutual Insurance Company