Whether your workplace celebrates, holiday lights and decorations provide a fun escape from the onset of short days, cold winter weather and the usual work routine.
But don’t forget about safety while you’re getting ready for all of the celebrating.
Holiday decorations can be a fire hazard, so workplace fire safety is especially important this time of year.
Despite all of the advances we’ve made in fire safety over the years, workplace fires still happen frequently. Especially if you add overloaded electrical circuitry and combustible decorations to the office mix.
On average, between 2007 and 2011, fire departments across the U.S. responded to roughly 3,340 office fires per year resulting in $112 million in direct property damage.1 And the dangers to your people and operations are real. Anytime there is a fire, injuries or deaths are always a possibility. Not to mention that the disruptions to business and recovery headaches couldn’t come at a worse time of year. Keep in mind that although only 12 percent of office property fires start in an area specifically designated as an “office area,” office area fires account for 24 percent of overall property damages.2
So just how much of a fire hazard are holiday decorations anyway? Like anything it depends on what they’re made out of, their condition and how they’re used. But a look across some general holiday fire and injury statistics presents good reasons to be cautious about decorations. For example, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) estimated that between November and December 2012, emergency departments treated roughly 15,000 injuries related to holiday decorating.3 The CPSC also notes that between 2009 and 2011, a Christmas tree was the first item ignited in roughly 200 reported home fires and that more than 70 people died in candle-related fires.4
So how can your office have fun, but avoid becoming a statistic?
Ideally, every business should have some level of fire prevention and safety program in place to protect employees, customers and property. Since many types of businesses must comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, this is a great time of year to revisit your emergency action plan and make sure your business is meeting OSHA requirements.
If your business isn’t required (or doesn’t choose) to regularly inspect its fire alarms and fire suppression systems or devices, now is a perfect time to make sure everything is in working order. At the very least, be sure to confirm that smoke alarms are working and that portable fire extinguishers are adequately charged. And don’t forget that smoke alarm batteries should be changed yearly, so now is also a great time to replace batteries if no one is sure when that was done last.
When it comes to holiday decorations, the options are virtually endless, so be sure to consider fire safety as you pick them out. For example, opting for a flame-retardant artificial tree rather than a live tree. The U.S. Fire Administration also suggests:
Regular fire drills and are a key part of any safe workplace. Beyond basic drills, however, fire safety training is a key part of a complete fire prevention program because the additional knowledge of what to look out for and how to react when a fire breaks out can help to save lives and minimize business damage and disruptions from a fire.
If you have specific needs related to fire prevention or are looking for a general program to foster a safer workplace, we can help.
The skills and knowledge your employees can gain from fire safety training are invaluable to your business year round—and can even help keep employees safe when they’re not at work.
1, 2 Richard Campbell, U.S. Structure Fires In Office Properties, National Fire Protection Association, August, 2013.
3, 4 “Deck the Halls” Safely: CPSC Estimates More Than 15,000 Holiday Decorating Injuries During November and December, Consumer Products Safety Commission, December 2013.
5 Prevention: It’s the gift that keeps on giving, Electrical Safety Foundation International.
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