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Written by
on 17 December 2012


Health and Safety Myths at Christmas

The Health and Safety Executive like to bust myths. There are lots of myths surrounding Christmas that simply are not true. They can stop people from getting into the festive spirit as worried bosses are left confused over what is allowed and what isn’t. This week’s busted myth concerns more Christmas decoration problems, specifically Christmas lights.

Many employers believe that all Christmas lights must be PAT tested before they can be used. This means companies are either paying out for the professional PAT testers to come in just to check each set of lights that will be used, or lights are simply not used.

Follow Some Simple Precautions

While it’s not necessary to perform PAT tests it is important to make sure the lights are suitable. You can do this yourself and there is no need to hire a professional. So when decorating your office Christmas tree, putting up external lights or decorating your shop front just remember these simple checks before you switch them on.

  1. First of all take a good look over the wire. Look for any signs of damage, and holes in the plastic covering and visible internal wires. If you see any damage throw the lights away and invest in a new set. If you have only just purchased the lights take them back to the shop and ask for a refund or replacement. Exposed wires are dangerous; they could cause a nasty shock or pose a fire risk.
  2. Check over the individual light bulbs. This is a boring job but a broken light could injure someone or cause a fire risk so you will need them to all be intact. When you find broken bulbs you can replace them (many Christmas lights come with replacement bulbs or you can buy them individually). You may prefer to buy a new set though as lights can be pretty inexpensive.
  3. Look at the plug and make sure all the screws are tight and there is no damage to the casing. The wires should be secure in the plug and not loose or hanging out.
  4. Untangle all the wires before you plug in the lights. You can do this while checking over the wires and the bulbs.
  5. Plug in the lights and test that they work. The last thing you will want to do is spend hours outside putting them up only to find they don’t work.
  6. When putting up the lights use appropriate attachments designed for indoor or outdoor lights.
  7. Always use suitable ladders to put the lights up – never balance on office chairs or wobbly tables as you could take a nasty tumble.

There is no need to avoid adding Christmas lights to your workplace. You don’t even have to spend out on a PAT test. Just perform some simple checks and be sensible when decorating. If you are still not sure contact your health and safety consultants for advice.

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.