Center for Improvement in Healthcare Quality Newsletter
December 2021


Holiday Season Decorations

By: Don Roush
The holiday seasons are quickly approaching and that means one thing for hospitals: decorations. These decorations can include artificial trees, wreaths, garlands, or paper chains hanging from the ceiling. Bulletin boards with holiday greetings and departments competing for the best decorated area will take place throughout the hospital. It is inevitable that hospitals will engage in a variety of seasonal decorations throughout the holidays. However, despite the emails and other means of communication within the hospital to remind staff of the hospital’s policies regarding holiday decorations, the hospital safety officer or facilities engineering must assume the role of the “Grinch” by consistently moving through the hospital to ensure departments use only approved, compliant decorations. So, support the Grinch this year by simply abiding by the following recommendations:
  • First and foremost be sure to check with your safety officer or facilities engineering department before you begin any formal decorating of your department. The hospital’s accreditation organization, along with your state agency that surveys on behalf of CMS, have standards that address electrical safety and fire safety. If you don’t follow these standards, you put the hospital at risk of not only fire and building safety violations, but a special gift of a citation for not following general safety standards if you have a surveyor visit you during these times.
  • If you use electric lights, choose LED lights. Look for the label to see if they are identified for indoor use and bear the Underwriters' Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) marks. Also, facilities’ engineering will need to do an electrical inspection on them to ensure they are permitted in the hospital.
  • Ensure lights do not come into contact with items such as paper, packages, and cloth, and check carefully to verify there are no loose sockets or damaged wires.
  • Turn off all holiday lights before leaving the area and at the end of the workday or if no one is in the area.
  • Artificial trees need to be labeled as fire resistant or flame retardant and UL listed.
  • Candles and any other open flames are prohibited. Electrical candles are an acceptable substitute. However, be sure to check with facilities engineering before using them to be sure they are permitted for use in your hospital.
  • Can't reach an electrical receptacle to plug into? Move closer, electrical cords can never be daisy chained together. A visual inspection of all electrical cords by facilities engineering must take place prior to use to ensure there are no frayed ends or exposed wires and that they are properly grounded.
  • Use power sources appropriately, do not use a red receptacle. Red receptacles are reserved for critical needs on the emergency power circuits.
  • For your safety and that of your coworkers, patients, and visitors, you should keep decorations out of corridors, aisles and stairways and off windows and doors. Ensure that decorations do not block views through windows and vision panels in doors.
  • Decorations are not to be attached to fire doors or on doors in fire corridors.
  • Fire doors, hallway doors and patient room doors shall not be wrapped.
  • Do not hang decorations from or decorate in any way so that it obstructs fire and smoke doors, sprinklers, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, pull stations, emergency lights, exit doors, exit signs and life safety equipment.
  • Ceiling tiles function as a smoke barrier and decorations should not be hung from them.
  • Be aware of combustible materials, such as wrapping paper and streamers, dried plant matter like moss, leaves, hay, straw, corn stalks, cotton batting, real Christmas trees and garland are all examples of decorations that may be combustible.
Healthcare organizations are required to comply with the NFPA 101-2012 Life Safety Code. NFPA standards that address holiday decorating include NFPA 101-2012, 18/; 20/ It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that the hospital is compliant with these standards. So, let’s keep the Grinch happy by practicing these rules pertaining to holiday decorations. By doing so, everyone can share in the fun and festivity of the holiday seasons in a way that's safe and all-embracing, allowing your hospital to spread festive cheer throughout the organization.
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