Christmas, the time of year for ‘elf and safety…

Greg Davies

Greg Davies
Director of Market Development, Assurity Consulting
17th December 2018

As well as all those festive feelings, Christmas brings its own challenges, but how many of those classic health and safety issues we all hear about every year are true? Inspired by and using the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) festive myth busters, which do you think are “festive thumbs up” (true) or Bah Humbug (false)?

Enjoy and have a merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all at Assurity Consulting.

1. You cannot clear snow and ice from pavements yourself - Festive thumbs up or Bah Humbug?

Bah Humbug and advice from says

“You can clear snow and ice from pavements yourself. It’s unlikely that you’ll be sued or held responsible if someone is injured on a path or pavement if you’ve cleared it carefully.

When you clear snow and ice:

  • Do it early in the day - it’s easier to move fresh, loose snow;
  • Don’t use water - it might refreeze and turn to black ice;
  • Use salt if possible - it will melt the ice or snow and stop it from refreezing overnight (but don’t use the salt from salting bins as this is used to keep roads clear);
  • You can use ash and sand if you don’t have enough salt - it will provide grip underfoot and;
  • Pay extra attention when clearing steps and steep pathways - using more salt may help”.

2. Workers banned from putting up Christmas decorations in the office- Festive thumbs up or Bah Humbug?

Bah Humbug and the HSE say:

“Each year we hear of companies banning their workers from putting up Christmas decorations in their offices for 'health and safety' reasons, or requiring the work to be done by a 'qualified' person.

Most organisations including HSE and local councils manage to put up their decorations, celebrating the spirit of Christmas without a fuss. They just sensibly provide their staff with suitable step ladders to put up decorations rather than expecting staff to balance on wheelie chairs.”

3. All Indoor Christmas lights don’t need a portable appliance test (PAT) every year - Festive thumbs up or Bah Humbug?

Festive thumbs up and advice from HSE says:

“Lots of companies waste money in the false belief they need to test their Christmas lights annually, or even don't put them up at all! By following a few sensible precautions, such as checks by the user for obvious signs of damage, every workplace can switch on safely and sparkle!”

4. Children are banned from throwing snowballs (if it snows?) - Festive thumbs up or Bah Humbug?

Bah Humbug and the HSE say:

“Every year we hear inaccurate stories about children who aren't allowed to throw snowballs, and swimmers who can't take their traditional winter dip in the local lake - all this in the name of health and safety.

If we spend time on the trivial risks there's a chance we'll miss the most important ones. We need to focus on finding ways for things to happen, not reasons to stop them - a sensible approach to managing risk focuses on practical action to tackle risks that cause real harm and suffering.”

5. Health and safety doesn’t prevent people putting coins in Christmas puddings - Festive thumbs up or Bah Humbug?

Festive thumbs up and what the HSE say:

“Finding a coin in your pudding on Christmas day - it's a tradition that's lasted for more than 500 years and is said to grant you a good luck wish for the coming year.

However, killjoys have been stirring up trouble saying it's too risky to put coins inside puddings for 'health and safety' reasons.

Occupational health and safety law is concerned with what goes on in your workplace, not what you're eating after a Turkey dinner - it doesn't prevent coins or any other lucky charms being put in puddings.

If we had one wish, it would be to stamp out the health and safety Scrooges who try to dampen the Christmas spirit."