Keep fire safety in mind over Christmas

I love Christmas. It brings out the big kid in me. In fact, as soon as Bonfire Night has been and gone, I’m already anticipating the moment when I’ll embark on my annual expedition up into the loft and finally start bringing those decorations down! But it won’t be a surprise to hear that, despite the excitement, I’m always conscious of the fact that Christmas can present some additional issues when it comes to fire safety in the home and at work too.

For starters, think of those decorations I’ll shortly be dusting off and hanging up so artistically around the Fletcher household. They look great but the fact is we’re all introducing extra, often highly combustible, materials into our homes and workplaces: by putting up trees and decorations we’re temporarily adding to the fire risks already present.

Have you thought about fire safety in your workplace during the Christmas season?

In terms of workplaces, risk assessments will of course have been carried out where required. But how many of those assessments will have factored in shifts in the environment specifically at Christmas? There are some sectors which are particularly vulnerable to this issue. Hospitality is one in particular where activity levels rise over the festive period. It’s likely there will be increasing numbers of customers in premises like hotels and restaurants. Creating a really festive look is all part of the experience. But having extra combustible materials present, along with more people around in general, plus increased alcohol consumption (just in the case of the customers I hope) … well, it all starts to become clear why these kinds of businesses need to be very aware of the increased risks.  Add in the fact that there are likely to be higher than normal activity levels in kitchens, plus seasonal staff on the premises who aren’t so familiar with their environment, and it becomes increasingly clear why businesses need to spend some time thinking about any extra fire safety measures they need to put in place.

Candles are a particular issue. There’s no denying that they look great and add a real sense of atmosphere but inevitably they present a significant risk. In fact, they’re such a cause for concern they are actually the focus of an entire safety week. Always place candles carefully and in proper holders, make sure they’re on stable and heat-resistant surfaces and keep them well away from drafts and from flammable objects such as curtains. You’ll find more candle safety tips on Cheshire Fire and Rescue service’s website but even better, give some thought as to whether you could use the battery powered alternatives instead.

Candles aren’t the only source of extra illumination at this time of year of course. Tree lights, external Christmas lights, lights festooned around offices: they all add a touch of sparkle and can make everything seem so much brighter at this gloomy time of year but unfortunately these kinds of lights are not always as well maintained as they should be. I’ve come across more than one or two workplaces where the enthusiasm for getting the tree up means the requirement for these kinds of electrical items to be PAT tested before use gets completely overlooked. Or maybe the sheer volume of extra electrical items plugged into sockets creates a situation where they become overloaded. If you’d like some guidance about using sockets safely and not overloading them you’ll find more help on Electrical Safety First’s website.

Have a merry and safe Christmas!

The aim of this article was definitely not to spoil your Christmas!  Hopefully it’s just acted as a reminder about the importance of taking a little more care at this busy time of year and has given you a few ideas to keep you, your family and your customers as safe as possible.

Have a wonderful Christmas and I’ll see you in 2019!

Posted: 1st December 2018

Debbie Thomas