Ho ho ho…it’s that time of year, so don’t let Santa Claus become a cause of a claim risk. Recently we were asked by a client who is thinking of putting up a Christmas tree for the first time, whether we ever get any incidents or claims involving Christmas trees. They were enquiring so that they could get a better idea of the risks, they needed to take into account.
It’s a great question as Christmas is the busiest season for most of our clients.
The Christmas tree and Christmas decoration related claims issues that we have encountered include:
- Cleaners having to put up the tree and lights and then using this as a reason why they couldn’t meet their usual rotations to reduce their liability exposure.
- A workers compensation recovery claim where a worker fell off a ladder putting up lights.
- Cords coming from the tree becoming a trip hazard.
One of our retail shopping centre owners put up an enormous Christmas tree one year. To minimise any risk it was surrounded by barriers so patrons were deterred from getting close enough to interfere with the tree. The barriers would have assisted in managing the risk and we are not aware of any incidents involving the tree despite its size and central presence in the centre.
Overall, we recommend ensuring that all cords, lights, baubles and decorations are not likely to become trip or electrical hazards by placing the tree in an area where electrical connections are not exposed or running across a walkway and the tree cannot be brushed against inadvertently or approached too closely by passing patrons. Avoiding glass or other similar materials that can shatter and form sharp shards when selecting ornaments minimises the risk of cuts if one falls and breaks. If the tree can be barricaded off that helps too. Also, cleaners and security should pass through regularly and include the tree in their usual risk identification checks to ensure there are no issues with the tree, which are going unaddressed.
On a cheerful note, we find that we can settle claims more quickly just leading up to Christmas. We suspect that claimants want some finality and resolution going into the new year. Whilst we get many incidents during this time, in general, injured customers can be happier and more receptive to rapid, non-litigious resolution because they are in holiday mode.
How an injured person is first dealt with can make or break a claim. Proclaim are offering free public liability incident and risk training – please click here for more information.
Written by Larissa Atkinson