Deck the Workplace with Safe Decorations

This week our Safety Training Tips Santa—er, editor—gives you some practical tips about decorating your workplace safely.

Ho, Ho, Ho! Attention all elves! Right about now Santa’s probably announcing the holiday decoration rules for the workshop to all his elves. You should be doing the same thing. If you haven’t already, this week circulate a clear, written policy statement to all workers stating your organization’s do’s and don’ts for decking the halls and walls for the holiday season. Why? Because decorations can be a safety hazard—mostly a fire hazard, but poorly placed electrical cords for holiday lights can also cause trips and falls. Nobody wants to be a Grinch, but nobody wants a fire or other accident caused by holiday decorations, either. 

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Here’s what you can safely allow. The best places for holiday decorations are in lobbies, reception areas, and break rooms. But you may decide to let employees decorate their workspaces and cubicles as long as they follow the rules. In your policy statement you might want to specify the kinds of decorations that are allowed. For example:

  • Artificial trees and other greenery made of noncombustible or fire-retardant materials or treated with flame retardant
  • No breakable decorations (glass balls can fall and break and become a cutting hazard)
  • Flame-retardant paper or cloth decorations (Check the label.)
  • UL-approved holiday lights and extension cords only (Although you should discourage the use of extension cords as much as possible, since they’re a tripping hazard.)

You may choose to allow a real tree in your lobby or reception area. But if you do, make sure it’s been properly treated with flame retardant, and make sure it gets watered regularly by a responsible designated employee. Living, potted trees with the roots still attached are nice and may also be safely used for decoration—but again, only in the lobby or reception area. They, too, need to be watered regularly to keep them fresh.

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This is what you don’t want. Be clear and be firm about these decoration no-no’s:

  • No decorations made of flammable or combustible materials
  • No electric lights on metallic trees
  • No decorations blocking exit signs, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, or emergency exits
  • No decorations in stairwells or fire exit corridors
  • No lighted candles (even in glass containers)
  • No stapling of light cords to the wall (it could damage the cord’s insulation and cause a fire)
  • No cords in aisles, dangling over partitions or from desks, or anywhere else where they could be pulled or tripped over
  • No holiday lights left on overnight or weekends (Someone has to be designated to turn off lights before he or she leaves for the day.)


Why It Matters …

  • On an average day, there are more than 200 workplace fires in America.
  • An office fire could kill or injure workers, destroy the workplace, and end up costing a fortune.
  • Holiday decorations may be festive, but they can also be dangerous.
  • With a simple, clearly communicated policy and a little checking up, you can effectively control the safety risks and still let employees enjoy their decorations.