• Tracy Wale, RN, CHSP

Holiday Compliance

Who just does not like the holidays? Whether it’s the stress, financial burden, or whatever other reason one could come up with, some people elect to be Scrooge or the Grinch.

As safety professionals, we fully encourage the celebrating and enjoyment of the holidays. That being said, just because it is a holiday, does not mean that OSHA regulations change to accommodate your amazing decorations and festive themes. The following are a few examples of areas that need to be taken into consideration when decorating your facility for the holidays.

Extension Cords

The biggest downfall of most holiday decorations are that they often require electricity. Plugging in holiday decorations is not a problem as long as you don’t use extension cords. Extension cords are for short-term use only and should not be used as a substitute for permanent wiring. Plugging holiday decorations directly into the wall outlet or into a surge protected power strip is a good alternative to using extension cords.

Exit route obstructions

When deciding where to put your gorgeous holiday decorations, consider your exit routes. It is imperative not to block exit routes with holiday decorations. Decorations also should be kept free from blocking exit signs, fire extinguishers and should never be hung from the sprinkler heads.

Combustible decorations

Holidays inspire staff members to set up decorations, which could result in fire risks. All decorations need to be flame retardant and labeled as so. This includes artificial trees. All decorations also need to be kept away from ignition sources such as light figures, electrical receptacles and open flames.

Simple changes help prevent office fires

Open flames

Candles that smell like Christmas trees are, without a doubt, one of the necessities in my home come Christmas time. That being said, when burning candles, remember that open flames should never be near combustible materials, electrical outlets, in areas where alcohol based hand rubs are located, or in areas where occupants stand, or in an aisle or exit. Candles can provide a great ambiance but you may want to consider flameless wax burners to achieve the same great smelling result without the worry of open flames.

Infection Prevention

Unfortunately, with the holidays seems to come an elevated level of people who become ill as well. Staff need to put infection prevention at the front of their minds as well while handling decorations.

It is prudent to keep holiday decorations out of patient care areas. Much like cloth toys, holiday decorations are difficult to clean and therefore pose potential infection control issues when found in clinical settings.

While studies on holiday decorations in relation to infection control are limited, it is best to avoid live trees and any decorations such as tinsel that can’t be easily cleaned or disinfected.

There may be no getting around it, especially at this time of year, but a little bit of the Scrooge personality type comes with the responsibility of being a safety leader.

Space Heaters

A lot of employees love to dive completely into the holidays with ALL of their senses. Along with the holidays comes a desire to feel warm and snuggly with some coffee, apple cider, or hot chocolate sitting next to your pine-scented candles.

In order to achieve complete holiday bliss, space heaters are utilized to stay warm. Electric space heaters are okay to use in the office environment as long as they are UL approved.

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