Deck the Halls…Safely

In the 2006 movie “Deck the Halls,” two neighbors have it out after one of them decorates his house for the holidays so brightly it can be seen from space. Co-stars Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick masterfully portray the chaos that ensues when grown men turn holiday cheer into a competitive sport.

If you haven’t transformed your home and office into winter wonderlands, what are you waiting for? Decorations – in moderation – create a fun, festive atmosphere. But they also introduce hazards you need to control.

Electrical hazards

Before the industrial revolution, trees were lit with candles. The combination of wood, wax and flame led to unfortunate, yet predictable, results.

We’ve come a long way since then, thanks largely to Ben Franklin, a kite, a key and a nasty storm one day in 1752.

Strands of electrical holiday lights are convenient and attractive. They’re also dangerous. 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 wiring’s insulation and increase the risk of sparks and electrocution.

– Shut it down: Make sure someone is responsible for turning off additional office lighting at the end of each day. Leaving lights on all night runs up the company’s electricity bill, and it could cause a fire while the building is unattended. Better yet, use timer devices to shut the lights off automatically.

Fire hazards
Following standard electrical safety practices when installing lights will help control your facility’s fire hazards. Still, you should consider additional fire safety issues when making holiday preparations.

All decorations should be made of non-combustible material, and you should never use candles. Make sure your office’s decorations do not interfere with sprinkler or alarm systems, exit signs or evacuation routes. That means you should not hang decorations from sprinkler heads, exit signs or fire extinguishers. Positon large decorative displays so they do not block doors or walkways.

Fall hazards
Slips, trips, and falls are the second-leading cause of workplace injuries, behind only motor vehicle accidents. Decorating is a non-routine task that can make these types of injuries 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, 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 cords that are at or near floor level.

Other seasonal hazards
Holiday decorations are just one of many unique hazards we should all be aware of during the holidays. For other seasonal safety tips, visit these posts from Texas Mutual’s Safety @ Work blog:
Turn up the Heat on Space Heater Safety

The Cold Facts About Winter Driving

Flu Season is Serious Business for Employers

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