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Elf and Safety at Christmas

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

In our industry, winter weather, such as strong winds, freezing temperatures and wet conditions all make trips and falls more likely – and more likely to be serious when they do happen. It’s more important than ever to ensure the necessary steps are taken to ensure your safety and the safety of others on site.

Figures released from the HSE found that 49% of fatal injuries registered over a 5-year period, were caused by falling from a height. It doesn’t surprise me that this was the most common cause really, especially at this time of year. Health and safety isn’t just restricted to the construction industry, it affects everybody – we’ve all heard of somebody who has fallen off a set of ladders trying to put up their Christmas decorations.

Around Christmas time we are bombarded with stories of people being told they can no longer throw sweets into the audience at pantomimes, children being banned from throwing snowballs or carol singers being stopped from singing in the street because of ‘elf and safety’ when in reality that’s just not the case. Health and safety is something we should take seriously. So blaming regulations for such traditions being stopped not only dampens festive spirit, but it also trivialises the true purpose of health and safety guidelines. They are there to protect people from risk.

Every year in the run up to Christmas, the HSE promote a ‘12 days of elf ‘n’ safety myths’ campaign to try and change the perception that health and safety stops everybody from having fun. Every year I read them and am horrified at some of the festive activities people claim are ‘against health and safety’. I mean really, what kind of health and safety risk comes from decorating your desk at work? I don’t know about you, but I love making the office all festive at this time of year.

Some of the most commonly encountered myths include:

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

·         Santa needs a seatbelt in his sleigh

·         Traditional shopping centre Christmas trees should be replaced by artificial ones

·         Seats removed from shops – despite weary Christmas shoppers wanting to rest their tired feet

·         The threat of being sued if you clear snow from outside your business premises or home

·         Coins or charms no longer allowed in Christmas puddings


Let’s be honest, of course you have to make sure that when you include coins in Christmas puddings that children (or anybody else for that matter) don’t eat them, but there comes a point where we just need to be sensible, remember the magic of Christmas and celebrate with our friends and loved ones.

So, from all of us at Constructing Excellence, we wish you a very Merry (and safe!) Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year. Let’s see what 2020 has in store for us …

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk

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