Christmas is a busy time for Village Halls and Community Buildings with all sorts of activities taking place, from the Christmas fair with Santa’s grotto, pantomime, Children’s party or maybe a community lunch. It can be exhausting for anyone tasked with putting on these events.
Each week from now until Christmas we will be posting some guidance and ideas to help halls during this festive period.
‘TIS THE SEASON TO BE CAREFUL
Are there ‘Elf and safety reasons not to put up the decorations this year?
The problem with mentioning health and safety in relation to Christmas is the belief that ‘the establishment’ is out to spoil the festivities – a perception that couldn’t be further from the truth, as they want everyone to enjoy themselves without having to face the aftermath of some tragic event.
By their very nature, many of our arrangements for Christmas tend to be temporary – often makeshift in nature – and that fact alone greatly increases the risk of accidents occurring. Consequently it’s worth having a simple checklist or risk assessment on hand of what we need to keep in mind to minimise any additional risks that might arise. Planning is Key!
Trustees and volunteers will soon be unpacking decorations that were hastily put away last year. If purchasing new decorations look for ones that are made of flame-proof materials or that have been treated to prevent rapid spread of fire and when positioning them keep them away from hot light bulbs.
Take care when hanging decorations. Technically working at height is classed as more than two metres above the ground. This may be an issue in many community buildings and village halls with high ceilings. Of more concern is that instead of using approved stepladders, people often use inappropriate means to reach ceiling height, such as climbing on tables, chairs or other equipment that is not stable and is not designed to take the weight of a person.
Hanging decorations often means stretching to an extent that would not be permitted as part of normal work activities. This all adds up to a recipe for falls that could easily result in bruises, fractures or worse.
Choosing and using a ladder
It may be worth the management committee investing in the purchase of a ladder or step ladder for their community building as it can be put to many more uses than putting up Christmas decorations. Changing light bulbs or fluorescent tubes (with energy efficient equivalents), cleaning windows, clearing guttering, dusting and painting at high levels will all require the services of a good, solid well constructed set of ladders or steps dependent upon the height of the task.
Many different designs are available from small step stools to larger step ladders; the type bought most often is the 4 to 7 step folding version. These are suited to most jobs but it is important never to use any step ladder that is the wrong height for a particular job. Some are too short for high work and some, just as dangerous, are too tall for lower work. The job must be able to be reached comfortably without having to reach up, down or sideways.
All step ladders should meet the required British or European standards and this applies whether the steps are bought, hired or borrowed.
Most step ladder accidents are caused by human error, not by ladders failing, but any equipment in poor condition is potentially dangerous so a quick check before starting a task is advisable.
- Is the stepladder generally sound?
- Check the outside uprights, the steps and top platform for damage.
- Don’t attempt to repair – buy a new one
- Are the rubbers or plastic non-slip feet safely in position?
- Are the steps all clean and dry?
Before embarking on any task at height, including putting up Christmas decorations, a risk assessment of the task needs to be completed. Look at what could go wrong, what would be the consequences and for whom; look at what can be done to ensure that things don’t go wrong. That is the essence of a risk assessment.
For more information, examples and model documents ACRE information sheet No. 15 Health & Safety Legislation and Village Halls.
- Wear flat firm soled shoes. Never work in high heels, bare feet or soft shoes.
- Check that there are no overhead hazards near to where the work is.
- Check that the stepladder is locked into the correct position. If it is a multi way design make sure that it is in the right configuration for the job to be done.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Rest the ladder on a firm and level base if working outside.
- Place a large flat board on any soft ground to make a stable base.
- Place it front-on to the work.
- Never work sideways.
- Have another person present who can watch, without distraction, the person using the ladder.
On the stepladder
- Keep a secure grip at all times.
- Never have more than one person on the step ladder at any one time.
- Don’t put loose tools where they could move or fall and cause injury either to the person on the ladder or to a person below.
- Use a fixed on work tray.
- Always have both feet on a step.
- Never stand on the top platform to gain extra height.
- Never over reach – get down and move the steps.
- Store the steps safely away from children in a clean, dry place.