At this time of the year, thoughts turn to raising morale and entering into a bit of festive spirit, but there are some seasonal hazards to be aware of.        

Most employers put their Christmas tree and decorations well out of the way during the year, and have to get them down from the loft or highest possible shelf. Use something safe to reach, not inappropriate chairs. The same logic applies to hanging decorations.

Are those old lights safe and properly approved with a CE mark? Do not allow your employees to have cables to lights trailing across walkways, or to cause an electrical overload. Paper decorations must be kept away from heat sources, and if you have motion sensors alarms, ensure that they are properly secured.    

We now turn to the more difficult bit surrounding Christmas, i.e. the traditional Christmas booze-up, or punch-up as we tend to call it.  If you organise a function then you need to give serious thought to how much drink you are providing, and warn people about the dangers of excessive consumption of alcohol. There are three main areas of risk:

  • drunks hurting themselves;
  • drunks abusing or hurting others; and
  • drunks driving home illegally;

Apart from the fact that you may be vicariously responsible for the above, there are likely to disciplinary issues arising, whether the function is held on site or off. You may even be responsible even if you do not organise it, if it is associated with work.

The consumption of illegal drugs is something you should also be on the lookout for.

Whilst not strictly Christmas related, this is a cold and dark time of the year and that has its hazards.  As an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure people can get into and out of work safely, especially in ice and snow. You also ought to be assessing the risk to drivers and others working on their own in bad weather, and taking appropriate steps to deal with your findings.   

Many employers take on temporary staff for Christmas, and you have an obligation to look after them. You need at least to complete an adequate induction plan, focussing on safety and appropriate behaviour, and have records of such.       

Christmas can be stressful either because workloads/hours increase and deadlines have to be met. Your employees are also trying to do too much at home, whether it be writing cards or going to parties. Look out for the signs of stress, and make appropriate welfare interventions. Hopefully this short article will not have added to your stress, and you will be able to have a good Christmas break having done all that you need to do to find the balance between looking like Scrooge, i.e. a killjoy, and creating a joyous environment.