Workplace fire safety at Christmas
Most people like to enjoy the Christmas season and enter into the spirit of things. For many this includes putting up Christmas decorations and creating a festive atmosphere, whether it is in the home or the workplace. You must always, though, be aware of the potential fire and safety implications of decorating your office or workshops.
Christmas decorations can present a multitude of potential fire hazards – here are some important aspects to consider at this time of year:
Consider the location of your Christmas Tree
Be very careful when locating Christmas trees and decorations around the workplace. Ensure they are in clear space and away from potential fire hazards and electrical equipment. If artificial trees are being used in your building, then ensure they are fully fire tested and approved for use in such areas.
Ensure all lights are safe and suitable
One of the biggest potential dangers of Christmas decorations is, of course, additional Christmas lighting. Ensure any lights that are being installed are safe and suitable for the environment. Any lighting set used in the office should be fully PAT (Portable Appliance Testing) compliant and approved. It is advisable to only use lighting sets that are British Standard tested and approved and ensure that plug sockets are used responsibly and NOT overloaded with this additional, seasonal lighting.
Consider also, that placement of any lighting, ensuring that you avoid proximity to flammable materials or other heat sources. Appoint a responsible person to ensure that all Christmas lights and appliances are turned off at the end of each working day.
Perform a complete fire risk assessment
Performing a fire risk assessment is a legal, mandatory requirement for any business all year round. The appointed responsible person within your company is liable for your building’s fire safety and ensuring that all arrangements and procedures are kept current and relevant – leading up to the Christmas period is always a good time to perform a refresh and update to these arrangements where necessary.
Fit fire warning systems and detection
Your business should be equipped with the relevant, statutory fire door arrangements, fittings and any fire alarm detection and warning systems, throughout the year, but it is worth considering booking in a formal inspection from a qualified body to make absolutely sure that you are fully compliant for this busy time of year.
Revisit fire evacuation plans
For many businesses, the Christmas period can mean an increase in both staff numbers and visitors to the premises. Whilst every business is legally bound to have an evacuation plan in place all year round, it is worth revisiting and taking into consideration the potential increase in footfall within and around the premises for this busy time. All evacuation plans must take into account, and provide:
1. Detailed and clearly identified escape routes
2. Access to the identified routes
3. Details of emergency doors and, if relevant, emergency lighting
4. Any designated areas for meeting once clear of the building
5. Relevant training and information for all staff concerned
Any plan should take into account, and cater for, the specific safety needs for those people that may be deemed especially vulnerable through age, disability or other reasons.
Temporary office rearrangements can result in cluttered areas
Christmas time often involves ‘temporary ‘ rearrangement of a business space – things may be moved, or ‘stored’, in different places than normal (to make way for decorations, arrangements etc.). This can often result in corridors and walkways temporarily ‘housing’ boxes, furniture and such – it is important that ALL passageways be kept clear at ALL times. Excess clutter in these areas can prove fatal in the event of a fire outbreak.