Yes, we know. You’ve probably heard the mistaken rumours about not being allowed to donate second hand toys to the local charity, or that Father Christmas now has to wear a seatbelt in his sleigh. Some myths sound more ridiculous than others…
But when it comes to the office, many believe that health and safety is a killjoy, particularly at Christmas. It’s the Grinch. The bah humbug of bah humbugs. So we thought we’d take this opportunity to address the top three urban myths which abound regarding health and safety in the workplace. And by the end of this article, we hope we’ll have put your minds at rest.
Myth No. 1: You can’t put Christmas decorations up in the office
Of course you can! And no, it doesn’t have to be done by a ‘qualified person’. The key is to ensure that an employer provides the right tools for the job. So, if your staff want to have decorations dangling from the ceiling, don’t expect them to climb on the desks to put them up there… give them a suitable stepladder. It’s about common sense.
Myth No. 2: Indoor Christmas lights have to be PAT tested annually
Everyone loves a bit of festive sparkle, and if you work in an office there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy it there too. So what’s the score? Christmas lights are wheeled out every year, having been stored for 11 months, probably in a box in a cupboard. We reckon the biggest challenge is to stop colleagues arguing over untangling them, not to get them PAT tested! PAT testing doesn’t need to be done frequently for low risk items like Christmas lights. Whereas we’d recommend frequent (e.g. 3 monthly) PAT testing when using electrical equipment where it might be damaged, we wouldn’t say the same for Christmas lights used in a low risk office environment. With that said, however, what Christmas lights do need is a sensible pre-use check for any signs of damage. If any problems are spotted, then get them PAT tested (or buy new ones).
Myth No. 3: You open yourself up to being sued if you clear snow from outside your business
The HSE are adamant that clearing snow etc. makes it much easier for people during icy conditions. They think it’s absurd that a business should fear being held responsible for an accident when trying to help others. And let’s face it, a walking individual has responsibility for themselves. So if snow and ice has been cleared carefully and responsibly, then you should not have a problem. Things to be aware of are:
- To use sand/grit/salt on the cleared surface, not water – because that may freeze overnight
- To take care to put the removed snow somewhere where it won’t cause a hazard
- To close pathways and routes that can’t be made safe for staff
So hopefully whether you’re a business owner or an employee you can now see that health and safety is still about common sense and not absurd rules. But if you’d like to understand more at this festive time of year, then please do give us a ring to talk through your concerns. We look forward to hearing from you.