December 5, 2016

Banish the bah humbugs – top tips for decorating the office safely

What can you possibly do in an office around Christmas that puts life and limb at risk?

The answer you’re searching for is hanging up decorations around the office, and that’s because many people don’t consider the risks attached to readying the workspace for festive fun.

With trips/slips or falls, electrical incidents and manual handling/lifting the top three causes of accidents at work, here’s a short guide to spotting the risks that are right in front of your eyes.

Hanging decorations means working at height

A recent fatality in Yorkshire highlighted the risks associated with putting up displays. Whilst in this case it is uncertain what the person involved was standing on, the risk of injury when working at height is significantly increased.

Reduce this risk by:

  • Never standing on anything not designed for this activity such as desks or chairs – you’d be surprised how many people think it’s ok to stand on a swivel office chair!
  • Leaving the responsibility of hanging decorations to those trained in the correct use of ladders.
  • Avoiding using paper decorations at all and, in the same vein, any hanging decorations from electrical fittings, where you might damage connections and increase the risk of fire.

Give your Christmas tree some space

The focal point of most Christmas decorations is the tree, beautifully decorated and twinkling with tinsel and lights.

Keep it the centre of attention for all the right reasons:

  • Locate your tree away from walkways and make sure it doesn’t obstruct fire extinguishers or interfere with fire evacuation routes.
  • Make sure it is stable by securing it to a suitable permanent fixture if necessary.
  • Handle glass baubles carefully to reduce the risk of cuts from broken ones.

Show those Christmas lights some tlc

Christmas lights are often stuffed in a bag after they are taken down which could lead to damaged wires and connections, increasing the risk of them malfunctioning and causing a fire.

Before using old lights again check that they have a kite mark safety standard on them and give them a thorough inspection by:

  • Checking the plug for damage to the casing and the wire grips have secured the flex.
  • Checking the flex by looking for damaged insulation, bare wires or any other sign of damage.
  • Making sure the correctly rated fuse is fitted to the plug.
  • Avoiding the use of multiple electrical adaptors or extension leads.
  • Fully uncoiling all wiring.
  • Avoiding trailing cables across walkways and access points and switch off all decorative lights at night or when the office is unmanned.
  • Checking outside lights are routed through an RCD or similar safety device.

Keep the festive fires to a cosy wood burning stove

Fire is probably the single biggest risk in an office environment on a daily basis and it is possible that festive decorations might increase this risk.

Here are the key points to keep in mind prior to starting the decorating process:

  • Hanging decorations over electrical equipment ventilation slots could cause the equipment to overheat and catch fire, so make sure you keep these vents clear.
  • Never drape decorations near heaters or naked flames.
  • Avoid the use of wax candles or any other naked flame.

No one ever thinks working in an office is dangerous and, for the vast majority of the time, it is normally a safe environment in which to work. By following the steps above you can carry on enjoying a safe work place right through the festive period.

If you require additional support please contact our Health and Safety Team on 0845 073 0240 (option 1) or email

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About the author

Ron Young