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UTK Environmental Health & Safety Procedure FS-030

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance on the use of decorations in university buildings.

Effective Date: 01/31/2015
Revision Date: 01/31/2015

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Purpose, Applicability, and Scope

Purpose – The purpose of this document is to provide guidance on the use of decorations in university buildings.

Applicability – This shall apply to all students, staff, and faculty on the Knoxville campus of the University of Tennessee.

Scope – This standard applies to all decorations in spaces under the primary control of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Definitions and Abbreviations


EHS – Environmental Health and Safety

FM – Factory Mutual

IFC – International Fire Code

LED – Light-emitting diode

NFPA – National Fire Protection Association

UL – Underwriters Laboratory

Roles and Responsibilities

Environmental Health and Safety shall:

  • Maintain this document in the safety manual.
  • Include decorations as part of the annual safety inspections.
  • Disseminate this document during early October each year.
  • Interpret policies base on regulatory perspectives or recognized safety management.

Department heads shall:

  • Disseminate this document, as necessary.
  • Implement this document
  • Consult EHS on questions related to implementation of this document if necessary.

Employees shall:

  • Follow the procedure detailed in this document
  • Forward questions, comments and concerns related to procedures to their supervisor.


The following requirements are based on standards from the National Fire Protection Association, the International Fire Code

Power Cords

  • The use of extension cords should be limited to the extent possible.
  • Light-weight (lamp cord) extension cords shall not be used.
  • Do not place cords beneath carpets and rugs or cross doorways or window openings.
  • Must not be wrapped around a nail or subject to other physical damage.
  • Shall not be stapled to any building structure including but not limited to wall, ceiling, floor, or baseboard.
  • Discard cords with frayed insulation or damaged plugs such as those with a ground prong missing.
  • Do not overload electrical circuits. The use of octopus connection (also known as multiple connection devices or cube taps) is prohibited.
  • Power strips are acceptable providing they are plugged directly into a wall outlet. Daisy chaining (plugged one into another) power strips one into another is not allowed.

Decorative Lights

  • Must be UL approved and turned off at the end of each workday.
  • Limit non-LED lights to no more than three sets in series.
  • Are not permitted on metal trees. Note that fiberoptic type lights are acceptable.
  • Must not be wrapped around any building structure including but not limited to including sprinkler lines.
  • Consider using LED lights. They draw less electricity and have a lower temperature.
  • Outdoor lights shall be installed or approved by Facilities Services.
  • Do not use incandescent lights.

Candles and Open Flame

  • Candles and similar open-flame decorations are not permitted.


  • Live or cut trees are prohibited for use inside buildings.
  • Artificial trees shall be labeled or identified as being flame retardant or flame resistant.
  • Trees shall not impair the required width of any component (e.g., hallways) of egress.


  • Shall not obstruct exit signs, the clear path to an exit, view of an exit, a fire alarm pull station or fire extinguisher.
  • Decorations must allow for at least 18 inches of free space between them and the bottom of a sprinkler head.
  • Must be flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • No decorative materials may be attached to, be suspended from, or cover any part of the ceiling including light fixtures.
  • Must not be attached to any window frames, walls, doors, or door frames by any method that damages the finish when removed. This would include nails, tacks, brads, staples, screws, and adhesives unless Facilities Services has approved charge work orders to repair any damages when finished. Some finishes cannot be effectively repaired like marble so it may be best to get these installations approved both for safety and building preservation ahead of time.
  • Any decoration material which is normally considered flammable, such as batting, cloth, cotton, hay, stalks, straw, vines, leaves, trees, moss, corn stalks, crepe paper and similar materials must be of fire-resistant quality and should bear the seal of approval of the FM or UL.
  • The flame propagation criteria of NFPA 701 shall not exceed 10 percent of the specific wall. Example – posters and other paper materials shall not cover more than 10% of the wall.
  • Plastics, Styrofoam’s, and polyurethane foams cannot be used for decorations or furnishings.
  • Any outdoor structures, trees, lights, etc. must receive written approval from Facilities Services and EHS.
  • Garland, lights, or other decorations shall not be wrapped around or attached to handrails.
  • Decorations should not cover any signs, including door numbers, lab hazard posting, and similar postings.



Training and Information

EHS shall disseminate this document or section 4 (procedures) of this document during the first week of October annually.

Regulatory Drivers and References


NFPA 1 – (Fire Code)

NFPA 101 (Life Safety Code)


The information provided in these guidelines is designed for educational use only and is not a substitute for specific training or experience.

The University of Tennessee Knoxville and the authors of these guidelines assume no liability for any individual’s use of or reliance upon any material contained or referenced herein. The material contained in these guidelines may not be the most current.

This material may be freely distributed for nonprofit educational use. However, if included in publications, written or electronic, attributions must be made to the author. Commercial use of this material is prohibited without express written permission from the author.

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