Health & Safety Christmas Myths 2019

Christmas is an interesting time for businesses. There are lots of temporary changes to work patterns, lots of parties (hopefully!) and most important of all, it’s the time of the year to dust off the decorations and make your office suitably festive. None of these things form part of your usual work activities and so you’ve probably not really thought of these things from a H&S perspective. Happily, a few years ago, the HSE published their “Twelve Myths of Christmas” and so we thought it would be a good time to revisit just a couple of the more relevant points that they raised.

1. Workers are banned from putting up Christmas decorations in the office

We’ve heard this one a lot over the years. Workers are definitely not banned from putting up decorations; however as a responsible Employer it just means that you’ve got to be practical about how you do this. Essentially this means using the correct access equipment (step ladders are fine as this would be classed as short duration and infrequent), being careful with decorations near to sources of heat and ensuring that things such as lights are turned off when your premises are unoccupied.

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

This is a contentious one. We would suggest that if you have an in-house PAT testing facility, then this would be a good, practical, thing to do to ensure that the lights aren’t damaged. The HSE actually advise that as long as you are checking for obvious signs of damage and not using obviously faulty lights, then this would be okay.

3. You can’t throw sweets out at a Pantomime

It has been seen in the papers. This is a case where the original company involved was simply afraid of having to pay compensation if anyone got hurt and blamed H&S in order to get their way. Our opinion, and that of the HSE, is that it’s a case of “oh yes you can!” Obviously on the proviso that you don’t have someone like Steve Backley (famous javelin thrower for our younger readers) machine-gunning sweets at 100mph!

4. Carol singers are a health and safety risk

They might be a form of noise pollution to some but as long as you follow sensible precautions, such as not signing in the middle of the road or carrying large quantities of cash, then there’s little risk from a hearty rendition of “Jingle Bells”.

We’ve also heard talk of the necessity to apply for a permit to carol sing. Again, we’re not aware of any legal requirement to do this either! Feel free to belt out your favourites at the top of your voice!

5. You cannot clear snow and ice from pavements

We would encourage everyone to ensure that access to their premises is maintained throughout cold spells. It is incredibly unlikely that you’ll be held responsible if you’ve attempted to do the right thing by clearing a path and then someone slips. In fact, we’ve never seen anybody succeed with any claims of this nature. There are a few tips though to do this successfully

  • Do it early in the day.
  • Don’t use water as it might refreeze and turn to black ice.
  • Use salt if possible or ash and sand if you don’t have enough salt.
  • Pay extra attention when clearing steps and steep pathways. Add more salt if you can.

Remember to enjoy yourself!

Christmas is a time to have fun, not to be swamped by health and safety regulations. As long as you take a reasonable and practical method of planning whatever you’re wanting to do to get into the festive spirit, we’re sure that you will be fine!

Stay Safe!

Merry Christmas from Walker Health and Safety Services.


Reducing the risks from vibration

The company wants to ensure that it is doing all that is reasonably practicable to eliminate and/or reduce the risks from vibration when using such tools in the workplace. Here is some guidance for helping employees in your organisation use hand-held power tools.

The first step should be to formulate a policy, with the purpose to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, the risk of hand–arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) arising from the use of hand-held vibrating tools and equipment. It should include the following.



  • A purchasing strategy, which ensures that equipment meets with the required legislative requirements/standards.
  • Identification and assessment of those processes with the potential to produce hand-transmitted vibration.
  • Details of the in-house health surveillance programme.
  • Introduction of measures to reduce exposure to hand-transmitted vibration where reasonably practicable and arrangements for specific schedules of maintenance and servicing of equipment involved.
  • Consideration of job rotation and reduction of exposure times where vibration exposure cannot be reduced below the currently accepted standards.
  • The provision of information and training on the risks of hand-transmitted vibration and the issue of an advice leaflet.

A risk assessment should identify the various sources and characteristics of the vibration hazard, including the number of employees at risk, allowing for an overall risk evaluation. Those tools or processes of greatest risk should be prioritised and addressed first. It is important that the person carrying out any such assessment is competent to do so.

The basic measures for reducing occupational exposure to hand-transmitted vibration are to eliminate/reduce vibration by using alternative methods or equipment. Vibration transmission to the hands can be reduced by using tools fitted with “anti-vibration handles”.

Organisation at work, job rotation and suitably timed rest breaks may help to reduce vibration exposure. However, it should be remembered that the mathematical relationship between vibration magnitude and exposure time means that a large reduction in time is required before any significant effect on vibration magnitude is seen and it should, therefore, be considered low down the hierarchy of control.

It is important to provide information to employees on the risks associated with hand-transmitted vibration, as well as information on signs and symptoms of HAVS and why these should be reported to their employer, or, if applicable, to the occupational health staff as soon as they are identified.

Employees should be instructed on the actions required to minimise the risk and ways in which they can contribute to risk reduction and control, for example by maintaining good blood circulation, warming both hands and body prior to starting work in cold conditions, keeping warm while working, ensuring that tools are properly maintained, and reporting defects.

Further preventive measures include regular maintenance of vibrating tools and equipment. Information on how to correctly maintain items can be provided by manufacturers or suppliers. It is of equal importance to replace worn parts, correct unbalanced equipment and maintain anti-vibration mounts and devices.

Contact us should you require assistance.

Best Practices for Using Safety Labels

If you want your business to run compliantly and efficiently, it’s important to pay attention to best practice in implementing health and safety policy.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website contains useful information on the workplace laws that cover the processing, manufacturing and packaging of a wide range of goods, including:


  • Cosmetics
  • Electrical products
  • Fireworks
  • Foodstuffs
  • Gas appliances
  • Medical devices
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Toys

These laws therefore cover a wide range of equipment and accessories.

Packaging and labelling

As well as the safety of the goods themselves, there are guidelines about how they are packaged and marked or labelled. These are to ensure the safety of workers who handle the goods and transport them, as well as the consumers who buy them. Appropriate safety and warning labels ensure workers are aware of dangerous goods and hazards, so goods can be handled, stored, transported and distributed according to best practice.

Packaging labels are used to make sure goods are handled according to the nature of their contents by indicating, for example, if they contain something that is fragile, hazardous or delicate. They are used by manufacturers to ensure the safety of their products during storage and distribution.

Safety labels

There is a huge range of safety labels available that are designed to meet all business labelling needs. For example, most workplaces use access labels to indicate entrances and exits, accessible areas, prohibited areas and convey other access-related instructions. Fire safety labels are used to guide employees and visitors in the event of a fire, while first aid labels are used to address the treatment of injuries.

Among general safety labels are those that warn of potential hazards, such as very hot water in a washroom or hot surfaces in a kitchen. Responsible employers should clearly label where water suitable for drinking can be found and apply warning labels to outlets where the water is not suitable for drinking.

There are also specific types of safety stickers and hazard labels available for:

  • Electrical hazards
  • Places where a hearing loop has been installed
  • Places where mobile phones are prohibited or allowed
  • Potential sudden loud noises
  • Toxic materials
  • Work areas that are unsafe for people with pacemakers.

Legal requirements

In addition to general legislation, special requirements apply to several business sectors. These include retailers, as well as those who manufacture, process or distribute the following:

  • Food and drink.
  • Precious metals.
  • Products for children.

Taking the time to ensure your business is complying with workplace law is very important. If you have any doubts or questions, it’s always best to check with your local trading standards office, as this is a good way to make sure you are trading legally. You can also use your local office to report anyone trading illegally.

Finally, while complying with the law is essential, best practice for using safety labels should also become part of your internal business processes, as it will help minimise the risk of accident or injury, ensuring your employees are working in a safe, healthy environment.

Contact us should you require assistance.


Managing health and safety for employees working from home

Health and safety requirements when working from home

If you have more than five employees, you have a legal requirement to assess potential risks to their work environment before employment begins and record any significant findings. You must:

  • Conduct risk assessments at the start of the employment or contract and when there has been a significant change to the home and review at least annually where there is no change.
  • Provide adequate information, instruction, training and supervision on health and safety matters.
  • Involve homeworkers when considering potential risks and discuss how best to control them.
  • Take appropriate steps to remove risks around the home wherever possible.
  • Click the link Tips for homeworkers….

Homeworking risk assessment

Before an employee can begin working from home, you must perform a risk assessment. This will prevent and control potential risks to your employees, and make sure you are meeting all the health and safety requirements.

Although your employees might be working from the comfort of their home, as an employer you still have the same duty of care for them as you do for your office-based employees.

The risk assessment includes checking the workstation, space, lighting, flooring, ventilation, desk, chair, computer, data security, relevant insurance, electrical installation and anything else required for the employee to work safely and effectively.

The aim of the risk assessment is to highlight areas of concern in relation to health and safety while working from home, as well as to help you decide on the right level of supervision required for an employee’s welfare.

It is your responsibility to provide any equipment needed for the employee to effectively carry out their responsibilities. The employee is responsible for resolving any home-related issues highlighted in the assessment.

The pros and cons of working from home

There are many factors that can influence your willingness to consider working from home as an option. The obvious question is whether the job can be done away from the office, if there is one.

Benefits of homeworking for employers

Increased productivity: Homeworking could increase productivity by cutting out commuting time and allowing more flexible working.

Reduced overheads: There are a lot of costs associated with the running of an office. Utility Bills and the rental of the commercial space are just a couple of the things that you could save money on when an employee works from home. However, there might be some initial costs incurred in terms of additional equipment and training.

Geographical location: When hiring an employee to work from home, you can cast a wider net for candidates. It can also help organisations who want to expand into different geographical locations.

Reputation: Most potential employees now check out company reviews from previous employees before applying for a job or accepting an offer. Being a flexible employer can also contribute to attracting potential employees as well as retaining current employees.

Benefits of homeworking for employees

Flexibility: A happy employee is a more productive employee. Although employees have to work the required hours agreed upon by all parties involved, they do have the option or deciding how they are going to spend that time to complete tasks and meet deadlines.

Good riddance to commuting: According to Inside magazine, the average employee spends nearly 200 hours commuting to and from work every year. Taking the worry out of commuting can result in higher productivity from an employee. Not to mention the costs they could save on not commuting, leading to happier workers.

Disadvantages of homeworking for employers

Managing remote working: Managers might consider it more of a challenge to manage and monitor remote workers than they would managing office workers. Before considering remote working, you need to know that you can trust the employee to carry out tasks efficiently and with minimal supervision.

Security: You also need to worry about the security concerns involved with employees working from home, especially if your business handles personal and private information. As the new GDPR law came into effect earlier this year, employees should be trained in the importance of keeping company and client information safe. Businesses found to be in breach of the new GDPR laws are liable to a fine of up to 4% of annual profit.

Communication: Another concern is the possibility of poor communication or miscommunication between employees and even clients. However, with all the communication platforms now available to us (such as email, phone, Skype, Slack, etc) it has become much harder to excuse poor communication.

Disadvantages of homeworking for employees

Limited group input: Homeworking means an employee will not be able to get as much input on projects from other employees in the office. However, the popularity of some of the platforms mentioned above does make communication between employees easier.

Distractions: A recurring concern for homeworkers is the number of distractions available to them. However, with online monitoring tools like Jira and Trello you can keep an eye on tasks as your employee completes them. This helps you stay on top of employee productivity.

Development: Working from home can cause difficulty in development and training for employees. Employees learn from their colleagues and co-workers. The office is a natural environment to impart knowledge, share information and upskill. However, with Skype and video conferencing keeping in touch is much easier than ever before. As of 2018, there is no reason why a remote worker should fall out of sync with the rest of your team.

If you require assistance, contact Walker Health and Safety Services Limited.