During the holiday season, most of us do not think about house or workplace injuries while decorating our homes and offices. However, a recent article in
the Times Reporter described an employee’s workplace injury that occurred while taking down office holiday decorations in January. It’s important to know the safety guidelines to avoid holiday-related accidents in the workplace, and to know the law if and when these injuries do occur.
Accidents Happen More Often Than You Think
Last year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) published a news report with startling figures for holiday-related injuries. During November and December 2010, the CPSC estimates that more than 13,000 people visited
emergency rooms due to accidents related to holiday decorating. The CPSC indicates that this number has risen substantially from years past, with a reported 10,000 emergency room visits in 2007 and 12,000 in 2008 and 2009.
Learning More About Holiday-Related Injuries
In many cases, these accidents are related to fires from Christmas trees, lights, and fireplaces. If you have any of these decorations in the workplace, you’ll want to keep some safety suggestions from the CPSC in mind. When dealing with trees, you should always check for freshness. If the tree is losing a lot of needles or the needles feel brittle, you’re at the greater risk of fire. If your office has an artificial tree, be sure to purchase one with a “fire resistant” label. When dealing with lights, you should only use ones that have been safety tested by a nationally recognized testing lab, such as “UL Lights.” You should also make sure that any extension cords you are using are rated for such use, and be sure to discard any lights with broken or cracked sockets and wires that look bare or frayed.
Also be very careful about where you’re standing when you’re hanging these decorations—you don’t want to fall! According to a CNN article discussing the “health hazards” of the holidays, an emergency medical physician in Southern California indicated that falls are “hands down the most common reason” for holiday-related emergency room visits.
Remember Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) Compliance
Many of these injuries we are describing can happen just as easily in your home as at the office. But thinking about the workplace specifically, employers should ensure that decorations do not violate OSHA by blocking exit doors, warning signs, and fire extinguishers. According to OSHA, the danger to employees must be minimized when hanging office decorations. There are fire safety regulations and rules for exit routes that are especially significant when decorating your office. No matter what, you need to be sure that employees and visitors can exit the workplace in the event of an emergency.
It is also important to be sure that light strands are not hanging haphazardly over desks, where they might cause another employee to trip and fall. Most importantly, make sure to turn off holiday lights before leaving the office for the night.
Have you suffered a workplace injury while decorating your office for the holidays or helping to take down holiday decorations? Speak to an experienced injury attorney today to learn more about your legal rights.