Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly

Are Christmas decorations in breach of health and safety rules?

If I was given a pound coin on every occasion that I was asked this question, I could probably afford to fund our staff Christmas party next Friday.  The law is clear that, provided a proper risk assessment is carried out considering where and how Christmas decorations are sited, particularly those which could pose potential fire hazards, an employer should not fall foul of health & safety rules.  Having said that, your insurance may not cover damage caused by untested electrical equipment so employers should ensure that, for example, Christmas tree lights are switched off before going home.

The Health & Safety Executive have provided some very simply Christmas decoration tips on their website.  These tips include:

  • Use a step ladder to put up decorations – not a swivel chair.
  • Do not hang tinsel on the computers or other sources of heat.
  • Do not decorate emergency exit signs.
  • Make sure that Christmas trees are secure and will not be knocked over by people passing or pulling cables.
  • Use paper cups, not glasses.
  • Keep fresh party food in a fridge before the party.

In conclusion, health and safety considerations should not prevent employers from decorating their offices over the festive season.  However employers might be well advised to avoid more extreme forms of office-based celebrations such as indoor fireworks and flaming puddings!

Simon Allison 
Partner – Employment Law

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