Safe Holiday Decorating Guidelines

This is a friendly reminder from the Physical Plant department to use caution when decorating your office environment this holiday season. Holiday decorations can be a fire hazard, and improperly placed electrical cords can cause trips and falls. Decorations placed on doors and walls can increase the burning potential if a fire occurs. The safest places for holiday decorations are lobbies, reception areas and break rooms. Sometimes workspaces and cubicles can also be decorated safely.

If you choose to decorate your spaces, please follow these best practices:

  • Use unbreakable, non-glass decorations (glass balls and ornaments can fall, break and become a cutting hazard).
  • Use flame-retardant paper or cloth decorations.
  • When putting decorations on walls, use authorized putty, not tape or sharp objects such as tacks or staples.
  • Use UL-approved holiday lights and extension cords only (check the tags on the cords for the UL certification).
  • If you use an extension cord, it must be a single cord, no longer than six feet, connected to a surge protector before being plugged into the wall and tucked behind the decorations.

Please avoid these major don'ts when decorating:

  • No decorations made of flammable or combustible materials.
  • No decorations blocking exit signs, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, sprinklers or emergency exits.
  • Do not black out windows or cover windows with any decorations (this violates the fire code).
  • No decorations in stairwells or fire exit corridors.
  • No lighted candles (even in glass containers).
  • No stapling of cords to walls (this could damage the cord’s insulation and cause a fire).
  • No cords in aisles, dangling over partitions, hanging from desks, or anywhere else they could be pulled or tripped over.
  • No holiday lights left on overnight or weekends.
  • No hanging decorations from the ceiling in any fashion.

Holiday decorations may be festive, but they can also be dangerous. By following these simple decorating guidelines, and by checking on installations across campus, our community can limit safety risks while still enjoying the holiday atmosphere.

Thank you for your attention to these matters and Happy Holidays!

Did You Know?

Here are some facts and figures that illustrate why we require these precautions with holiday decorations:

  • On an average day, there are more than 200 workplace fires in America.
  • Each year, about 4,000 injuries associated with electric extension cords are treated in hospital emergency rooms.
  • From 2016 to 2018, there were about 1,100 candle fires in November and December each year, resulting in 30 deaths, 180 injuries and nearly $56 million in property loss per year.
  • An office fire could kill or injure workers, destroy the workplace and incur significant financial losses.