Don’t let Christmas in the workplace put your ‘elf’ and safety at risk

December 6, 2021

Christmas in the workplace – whether working from home or in the office – is a time when employers and staff enjoy a little light relief.

But whether you have a fully decorated tree in the corner of your office or a string of fairy lights on your home working desk, there is an element of risk assessment needed to maintain health and safety!

Along with the winter drop in temperatures, there are a few festive faux pas that could be the difference between making the run up to Christmas merry or miserable for staff.

Peterborough-based recruitment firm Anne Corder Recruitment has some tips:

  • A cold workplace is not only annoying and sometimes counterproductive, but it can also be dangerous. The HSE suggests that for most workplaces, a minimum temperature of 16 degrees Celsius is acceptable (or 13 degrees if the work involved ‘rigorous physical effort’) While these temperatures are not a legal requirement, it is ultimately the responsibility of the employer to decide how cold is too cold.
  • The weather can be a slippery issue – with the potential for wet and icy floors to wreak havoc. Try and ensure that floors are regularly wiped in the office and for those working from home, take extra care if you have been out for an early morning dog walk or run before you log on.
  • Christmas in the office just isn’t the same without some sort of festive decoration. Whether it is a real 6ft Christmas tree in your reception area, tinsel around computer screens or a few fairy lights on your desk at home – don’t fall foul of potential seasonal mishaps.
  • Be extra careful if you are retrieving stored decorations from the office or your loft. Think about asking for extra help with heavy or hard to manoeuvre boxes.
  • If you are hanging decorations from a height (or even outside the workplace) ensure your step ladder is stable and get a colleague to hold it steady for you. Balancing on wobbly swivel chairs is a definite no-no.
  • Baubles have a tendency to fall and break if the tree is knocked or they are not securely arranged. Broken glass can be another hazard, so try and opt for shatter proof decorations or have a go at making some inhouse as a team building exercise.
  • When it comes to finishing off the tree with strings of fairy lights, it is a good idea to have them PAT tested (particularly if they haven’t been used for a while) and make sure that cables aren’t snaking around the office or home to avoid trip hazards.
  • If you are working from home and choose to brighten up your workstation, make sure that any decorations or lights are secure to avoid any dangerous or embarrassing moments during a virtual meeting!
  • As well as physical health and safety, emotional and mental wellbeing is just as important. Some colleagues may find Christmas a difficult time of year, so employers should ensure that these and other staff are protected against additional work-related stress at this time of year. Invite them to talk openly about any issues, stay in regular communication and make any home workers who feel isolated aware of any support they require.

Nel Woolcott, Managing Director at Anne Corder Recruitment, said: “We are very much aware that health and safety in the workplace is a constant consideration, with employers having a duty of care to their staff – whether they are back in the office or remote working.

“After the challenges of last Christmas, it is understandable that many people want to share the festive season with colleagues – perhaps something they missed out on last year.

“However, while a little relaxation in the workplace over the festive season can be seen as welcome after the efforts of the past 12 months, we must be mindful that health and safety is even more prevalent and important to allow us all to enjoy the season.”