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’Tis the Season for Hazards: Tips for preventing injuries during the holidays

By Tom O'Connor | Dec 15, 2021
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Heading into the holiday season, many workers take time off. However, just because a worker doesn’t have to worry about hazards in the workplace, doesn’t mean that dangers don’t exist at home. Fortunately, most can be abated with proper awareness and using common-sense safety measures.

Health

For many people, this month may be the first time getting together in person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, it is important to continue maintaining social-distancing practices. Individuals should wash their hands frequently and consider wearing masks when around immunocompromised or older friends and family members, regardless of vaccination status. People that are not vaccinated may want to consider doing so at least 14 days before the gathering. Booster-eligible individuals should consider getting the additional shot.

Winter weather can be frigid, so when spending time outdoors in these conditions, people should wear gloves and multiple layers to provide better insulation and to help adjust to changing temperatures. Ideally, folks should wear an inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic material to keep moisture away from the body, a middle layer of wool or synthetic material to provide insulation (even when wet) and an outer wind or rain protection layer that allows some ventilation to prevent overheating.

Driving

For Thanksgiving 2021, AAA predicted more than 53 million people would be traveling. This year, there may be more drivers than usual because people may still be apprehensive about air travel. One would expect that this increase will result in more accidents. Unfortunately, motor vehicle accidents are already the most common cause of nonwork-related injuries and fatalities. Therefore, it is important that employees are educated on motor vehicle and traffic safety and are encouraged to practice safe driving on and off the job. This means not using cellphones to talk or text while driving, operating a vehicle defensively and never getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol or other mind-altering substances.

Holiday lights

Many people enjoy hanging lights for the holidays. However, doing so can sometimes be very dangerous. When working overhead or in elevated positions, it is important to use the appropriate ladder or stepladder for the task at hand. People should avoid standing on chairs, furniture or other household objects. When working from a ladder, it is imperative to always maintain three points of contact and to avoid leaning too far in one direction.

Electrically, make sure there are no exposed or frayed wires, loose connections or broken sockets. When putting up lights, avoid overloading circuits with too many appliances or other electronic devices. Keep in mind that fire hazards are more prevalent during the holiday season, and it’s not just electrical fires that can occur. According to the National Safety Council’s Holiday Safety Guide, “Increased use of candles and fireplaces, combined with an increase in the amount of combustible, seasonal decorations present in many homes, means more risk for fire.”

Fires

Never leave burning candles unattended or sleep in a room with a lit candle, keep candles out of reach of children, make sure candles are on stable surfaces and don’t burn candles near trees, curtains or other flammable items. Avoid burning trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in the fireplace and make sure to clean and inspect fireplaces at least annually.

Live Christmas trees can dry out and be extremely flammable, so it is very important to ensure they always have enough water in the base or stand. Turkey fryers also result in hundreds of fires each year. To avoid grease fires, set up the fryer on flat ground at least 10 feet from the house, keep children away and pour the oil in evenly and steadily. Only cook a thawed and dry turkey, because water will cause the oil to spill over. Be careful not get burned when using a turkey fryer, and always have a fire extinguisher ready.

Decorations

Finally, household decorations also present dangers. Artificial snow can irritate the lungs and cause respiratory problems if used improperly, so always follow directions. Christmas ornaments are frequently made from glass and are breakable. They can also have sharp hooks and metal components that can cause cuts and abrasions. If small children will be near ornaments, consider using plastic alternatives with string or twine hangers rather than sharp metal hooks. Additionally, certain plants such as poinsettias can be poisonous and should be kept away from children and pets.

Here’s to a healthy, happy and safe holiday season to all!

About The Author

O’CONNOR is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm. Reach him at [email protected].

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