The Twelve Myths of Christmas

Health, Safety, Christmas, Myths

Christmas is a special time of year for everyone. From the mince pies, to the mulled wine and seemingly endless present wrapping, at First Class Safety, we embrace Christmas and the festivities as much as anyone else!

However, at this celebratory time of year, health and safety is often incorrectly cited as being a bit of a Scrooge towards some of the pretty harmless festive activities… To prove that we’re not so Bah Humbug towards Christmas and the festive spirit, we thought we would provide a brief (and jolly!) myth-bust of some the most commonly circulated media stories, surrounding health and safety.

1) Myth: Workers are banned from putting up Christmas decorations in the office

Reality: Most organisations – including First Class Safety and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), manage to put up their decorations and Christmas trees, without a fuss. We just sensibly provide staff with suitable step ladders to put up decorations – rather than expecting staff to balance on wheelie chairs!

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

Reality: By following a few sensible precautions, such as checks by the user for obvious signs of damage, every workplace can safely switch on their Christmas lights and without carrying out PAT tests every December.

3) Myth: You can’t throw sweets at the pantomime

Reality: Health and Safety rules were blamed when a pantomime stopped throwing out sweets to the audience. The main worry of the production was in fact the cost of compensation if anyone got hurt. Realistically, the chances of a panto causing serious injury – by throwing out sweets, is incredibly low. The Health and Safety Executive has issued no statement or comment on this matter.

4) Myth: Santa must wear a seatbelt in his sleigh

Reality: This myth comes from a decision made by the Halesowen and Rowley Regis Rotary Club and their insurance provider in 2007, that in order for the Rotary Club Santa sleigh to be driven on the road, his sleigh should be fitted with a seatbelt. This agreement did not involve the Health and Safety Executive at any stage.

5) Myth: Second hand toys cannot be donated for Health and Safety reasons

Reality: It takes additional time to check the condition of used toys and there may be valid insurance or compensation issues involved when running a toy donation scheme but there are no health and safety regulations advising or discouraging on this.

6) Myth: Traditional shopping centre Christmas trees need to be scaled back or replaced by artificial alternatives for Health and Safety reasons

Reality: Health and Safety laws exist to prevent people being seriously injured or made unwell at work. The laws are certainly not there to dictate how a Christmas tree should be decorated or whether it should be real or artificial!

7) Myth: Seats have to be removed from shops with high footfall.

Reality: Christmas shopping is often very frantic and shoppers will frequently want to rest their weary feet. Customers are often dismayed when they find all the seats have been removed for health and safety reasons… Shops need to manage crowds safely but it’s a myth to suggest that it’s a requirement to remove seats at busy times. A bit of common sense should ensure seating is located in a sensible place.

8) Myth: Carol singers are a health and safety risk

Reality: When it comes to carol singing, in recent years we’ve heard of insurance companies producing comprehensive health and safety guides for carol singers and parish councils asking groups of singers to apply for permits, in order to prevent upsetting home-owners. Well-intentioned pieces of advice such as ‘don’t sing in the road’ and ‘don’t carry large amounts of cash’ are not health and safety requirements, they are simply common sense.

9) Myth: Children are banned from throwing snowballs by Health and Safety

Reality: Health and Safety laws or rules are simply not used for spending time on trivial risks – such as the outcome of throwing a snowball. Health and Safety laws aim to take a sensible approach to managing and tackling risks that could cause real harm and suffering.

10) Myth: If you clear snow from outside your business or home you are likely to get sued.

Reality: A representative for the Health and Safety Executive stated in 2010: “I would like to make it clear that under health and safety legislation nobody who volunteers to support their community by clearing pavements during icy conditions should feel they are in danger of being sued”. Enough said really!

11) Myth: Health and safety prevents people putting coins in Christmas puddings

Reality: 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.

12) Myth: Health and Safety ruins Christmas

Reality: We hear of events being cancelled, Santa stopped from parading in his sleigh, and festive displays being banned, all because of Health and Safety… Health and Safety laws exist to provide safeguards against people being seriously injured or made unwell at work, not to hamper fun activities.

On that note, everyone at First Class Safety would like to say Bah Humbug to all the festive killjoys out there and a very happy Christmas to everyone else!