Risk Management Reminds Employees of Holiday Decoration Guidelines

Risk Management Reminds Employees of Holiday Decoration Guidelines

By Amanda BallardUniversity Communications
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'Tis the season to be jolly, but that doesn't mean it's time to ignore office safety protocols. That's why Risk Management Services has some holiday decoration guidelines for employees to follow while they're decking their halls with boughs of holly.

"At holiday time the volume of 'stuff' increases risk and so we try to heighten people's awareness to the risks they're being exposed to," said Andrew Kelley, assistant fire marshal for Risk Management Services.

Kelley said one of the most common mistakes he sees on campus is "daisy-chained" extension cords, in which extension cords are plugged into other extension cords.

"Extension cords are designed to move a given amount of electricity a given distance," he said. "Plugging extension cords into other extension cords increases the potential for overloading the extension cord, increasing the temperature of the insulation. The increasing temperature can cause the insulation to melt, decompose or burn."

When the overheated cord comes into contact with other objects, it can cause them to burn as well, Kelley said.

Another common mistake: hanging objects from sprinkler heads.

In case of a fire, decorations hanging from sprinkler heads could get in the way of water spray. They also could trigger connections in the sprinkler, causing it to leak or discharge. "No one wants to take a fire sprinkler shower," Kelley said.

A few other guidelines:

  • Risk Management Services recommends against the use of live or cut holiday trees, though they are allowed in some University buildings. Check with Risk Management before setting one up in your work area.
  • Instead of using lights, try using colorful ornaments or decorations. If you do use lights, inspect all cords for damage or fraying before plugging them in.
  • Don't use multi-plug adapters. If you need more outlets, use power strips with a fuse or circuit breaker instead.
  • Paper decorations shouldn't cover more than 25 percent of a wall's surface area to reduce potential fire hazards. For example, if a wall measures 8 feet by 10 feet high, paper decorations should cover 20 square feet of wall or less.
  • Make sure decorations are kept away from exit signs, fire alarms, fire extinguishers and light fixtures.
  • Use spray-applied artificial snow cautiously – it can set off the sprinkler system.
  • Don't forget to turn off all electric decorations at the end of the day and try to make sure that all decorations are removed prior to University closure, which begins Dec. 24.

A full list of recommendations can be found on the Risk Management Services website.

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