Sleigh your Christmas with these Holiday Safety Tips

With the Christmas holidays fast approaching, employees tend to deal with more distractions than usual. Planning dinners, hosting family from out of town, purchasing gifts and figuring out the logistics of other festive activities can easily cause people’s minds to wander when they’re at work. From the health and safety side of things, it’s worth considering how these issues affect workers on the floor, on-site, on the road or in their homes. 

1. Fatigue

People are more likely to be fatigued during the holiday season due to extra tasks and responsibilities—like last-minute shopping before or after their shift, decorating their homes, or going to school Christmas concerts. As a result, fatigue can pose a big problem regardless of whether or not employees are engaging in high-risk work.

Injuries in the workplace occur most often when they’re not expected and are more likely to happen when employees are tired or run down. So, although fatigue is a complex issue that lacks a single easy solution, it might be a good idea to consider longer breaks or alter work schedules to help compensate for seasonal fatigue.

2. Rushing and frustration

In addition to holiday stress in employees’ personal lives, many industries face their busiest times leading up to the end of the year. The added pressure in the workplace can affect employees’ emotional state, causing them to rush or become frustrated. These states may cause employees to unintentionally create hazards, miss something vital, lack patience with procedures or become short-tempered. When rushing or frustrated, people are more likely to slip, trip or fall, bump into colleagues and machinery, or forget to perform small but vital tasks.

It should also be noted that some companies fail to live up to the “safety first” slogan during the holidays. Restaurant orders and hotel events are important, but not at the cost of someone’s health or life. It’s important for management to make it clear to employees—through actions as much as words—that their safety is more important than rushing through a job.

3. Ladder safety

Employees may choose (or be asked) to decorate the workplace at this time of the year. With ladders being used more frequently around the holidays, it’s important to provide a refresher on ladder safety. For example, people should ensure the ladder’s stability before use, keep three points of contact at all times and never place a ladder on a surface other than the ground. It’s also worth mentioning that decorating is much easier and safer to do if the task is not left to one person. That’s because they might be more inclined to rush or ignore the need for three points of contact in order to carry bulky decorations up or down the ladder. This should also be kept in mind for taking down any decorations after the holiday season has ended. 

4. Electrical safety

Many electrical incidents happen over the holidays. In fact, thousands of people are treated each holiday season after sustaining an electric shock or being injured in an electrical fire. These incidents are often caused by carelessness and misuse of (sometimes old and faulty) decorations. Ensure that any decorative lights have been tested for safety, are undamaged and don’t overload the sockets. Employees should also be reminded about the importance of unplugging decorations for the night after leaving the office and turning off any lights or trees when not at home. 

5. Slips, trips and falls

If corridors and rooms are free of decorations and cables throughout the year, people are likely to become complacent and fail to notice when suddenly there is something in their way. Holiday lights and decorations should be clearly visible and kept out of the way to prevent tripping.

But there are many other ways for people to slip and fall during the holidays. Snow and ice are the main culprits, especially because they’re coupled with shorter, darker days that make it easier for people to miss or misjudge a step when walking outdoors. Snow and ice should be removed promptly from areas where people will be walking.  Managers and OH&S Committee staff members should also consider providing new or additional mats to stop snow and water from being brought inside working areas (if needed). 

6. Food safety

Nobody wants to see employees get sick before the holidays. However, some workplaces don’t take adequate precautions when ordering and storing party platters for their staff holiday gatherings. Food handling guidelines must be followed whenever food is being prepared, stored and distributed. Be extra mindful of food-related allergies and make sure that anything with allergens is labeled appropriately and kept separately from other foods. If employees are contributing to potlucks or baking for their colleagues, remind them of the need to communicate the use of common food allergens. All of the above tips apply to any food preparation or storage in your home over the holiday season. 

7. Drunk and drowsy driving

Work and family gatherings are often an opportunity for people to have a few drinks—but it’s imperative that nobody is allowed to get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. No employer wants their workers involved in a car crash. When organizing an event where alcohol is served, it’s a good idea (and a gesture of goodwill) to pay for a safe ride home. There are also various charities and companies that drive people home in their own cars, thus preventing unnecessary worries and logistical problems concerning vehicles being left somewhere overnight. Impaired driving kills more than 50 people each year in Saskatchewan. Be a good wingman; don’t let impaired coworkers, friends and family drive. 

To reiterate the problems of fatigue above, you should treat drowsy driving with the same level of conviction as drunk driving because it is also risky and most people are so complacent with driving tired that they don’t even give it a second thought. And the combination of a late night and a couple of drinks compounds the risk to disastrous levels. 

8. Prepare for the winter hazards

While the holidays are an exciting time, people are more likely to fall ill or be involved in a workplace incident if they don’t keep their minds and eyes on task. Provide longer breaks when possible to combat fatigue, ensure ladder safety is adhered to, discuss relevant holiday safety topics during toolbox talks to fight human error, and be diligent about everyone’s safety when ordering food and consuming alcohol.

It’s important to consider that safety doesn’t only apply to the workplace. If training and culture are strong in an organization, safety becomes a state of mind and not an item on a to-do list. So with the holiday season coming up, it’s time to take some additional training out of storage and remind workers that safety doesn’t take a vacation just because they do. After all, holidays are supposed to be a joyous time and everyone wants to make it through the season incident-free.

Have a safe and happy holiday season from all of us at Service Hospitality! 

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