All you need to know about office health and safety at Christmas

As the usual sensationalist 'elf and safety gone mad' headlines hit the tabloids, we unpick what should and shouldn't be done under health and safety regs in your office this Christmas.

health and safety at christmas

We offer a range of health and safety services to protect your employees and your businesses from the costly, stressful effects of accidents and incidents at work:

Every year we hear stories of 'humbug' businesses banning their staff from pinning up lights or tinsel for 'health and safety' reasons - but are such drastic actions really needed? Here we look what the regulations really say.

Q. Can office workers put up Christmas decorations?

A. Christmas is a great excuse for office workers to let their hair down and spruce up the corporate atmosphere with a few festive decorations. Some businesses introduce their own rules around putting up decorations - usually to prevent the hassle of having to repaint over pin-holes or ripped plaster from sellotape.

office christmas decorations

Health and safety law does not ban this seasonal tradition, but it does require employers to make sure suitable, safe equipment is provided to put up the decorations such as step ladders instead of wheelie chairs, and that any risks such as trailing wires are limited as much as is reasonably possible.

Q. Do indoor fairy lights need a portable appliance test (PAT every year?)

A. It is not necessary to waste money on annual PATs for your Christmas lights. Simply follow sensible precautions - buy lights with safety marks on the packaging; check for obvious signs of damage; follow the manufacturer's instructions; keep them clear of flammable materials and remember to turn them off at the end of each day.

Q. Can second-hand toys be donated to charity?

christmas toy health and safety

A. A great way to be charitable in the office this Christmas is to run a shoe box scheme. Ask employees to pack a shoe box full of toys, educational items and toiletries for a child in need. There is no health and safety law banning the donation of second-hand toys, as long as they are clean and in good condition.

Q. Are employers legally obliged to clear snow and ice from the premises?

A. It is your duty as an employer to make sure the workplace is as safe as is 'reasonably practicable'. This means you should take steps to remove or at least reduce risks caused by snow and ice. This could mean laying down grit where people walk or drive, cordoning off any unsafe areas (perhaps where snow is falling off a roof), or clearing snow. If there is an incident and the employee wishes to bring a personal injury claim against you, the court will look at the actions you took to prevent such an incident from occurring.

Q. Is there a minimum temperature the office has to be?

A. There isn't a specific temperature stated in legislation. However, it does state that the temperature should be 'reasonable' during working hours.

office temperature health and safety

This will of course depend on the environment - whether workers are moving around, lifting things and generally being active, and whether they are sitting still at desks. Guidance by HSE suggests that a minimum temperature for manual workers should be 13 degrees C, while for sedentary workers that should be upped to 16 degrees C.

Our health and safety experts can advise you further if necessary. Simply head over to our health and safety consulting section, or go ahead and fill out our enquiry form to request a call back.