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Seasonal Health & Safety Myths

It’s that time of year again; Silly season is upon us and the ‘Elf & Safety surrounding the festive period is once again a popular topic of conversation and indeed confusion.  Let’s take a look at some of the most unlikely Health & Safety myths that seem to do the rounds year on year threatening to take away some of that festive spirit. Bah humbug indeed!

Workers are banned from putting up Christmas decorations in the office

  • Health & Safety is often cited as a reason for not allowing employees to put up Christmas decorations in their offices, instead requiring a qualified person to do the job. As long as the appropriate equipment is provided (i.e a not a domestice step ladder) and care and attention is taken to the job in hand, there is no H&S reason to restrict workers from putting up the trimmings.

Indoor Christmas lights need a portable appliance test (PAT) every year

  • 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 before use, every workplace can switch on safely and sparkle!

You can’t throw out sweets at Pantomimes

  • Health and safety rules have been blamed for pantos no longer throwing out sweets to the audience for fear of causing injury and subsequently having to pay out compensation. But realistically, the chances of anyone being seriously hurt are very slim and Health & Safety  really doesn’t need to be considered a factor.

Health and safety prevents people putting coins in Christmas puddings

  • Contrary to what some may say, there is no valid Health & Safety risk to prevent you from putting a coin inside a Christmas pudding. After all, it’s a tradition that’s lasted more than 500 years and the chances of choking on the coin are miniscule. 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.

You can’t return headphones to a shop

  • If you were to receive a gift of headphones for Christmas, you might be told that if the packaging was open, Health & Safety reasons would prevent you from being able to return the item. But in reality there are no H&S risks associated with returning the headphones and the shop should be honest about the real reasons why its policy doesn’t allow for a refund.

So don’t blame ‘Elf & Safety

Christmas is just like any other time of year when it comes to Health & Safety. There are no activities in particular that require extra safety measures or are governed by extra red tape. It’s all about assessing the risk and taking a proportionate and common sense approach to Health & Safety so you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable festive period.


Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence.

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