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Ho Ho H-Oh-No! Beware of Employee Safety Hazards During the Holidays

Like you, every year when I settle back with a cup of hot cocoa and think about the holiday season, my mind drifts to frayed wires, food allergies and the dangers of decorating high traffic areas of the office.

Wait, what? You are thinking of a beautiful lights, delicious treats and fun holiday contests? Well, don’t be fooled, we’re not that far off from one another. Like any responsible employer, you probably strive to improve employee safety in the workplace all year long so be careful that the warm fuzzy holiday feeling doesn’t blind you to some of the hazards that can threaten employee safety this time of year.

Some of my more safety conscious clients are having special employee safety meetings to cover holiday hazards that come wrapped in beautiful (or delicious) ways including the following:

Holiday Treats - The smoked salmon is back. Every year, one of our suppliers sends the office a smoked salmon and although it’s probably perfectly safe, nothing makes me consider food safety quicker than a fish that’s been sitting out for several days. More likely though, the true hazards to employee safety (also known as nuts or legumes) have been ground up and mixed into the delicious cookie that I’ve been munching on while eyeing the fish from across the room. Be sure that if you’re making holiday treats you’re aware of your coworkers’ food allergies or just steer clear of any questionable recipes to be safe. I’ve already had to mark snowballs, fudge tarts and chocolate chip cookies with nuts off my cookie list this year!

Costumes – This year, our Director of Sales shared two new Christmas hats with us at the holiday party. Both were battery powered with music, lights and wiggling bits. As frightening of an experience as it was, everyone managed to escape unharmed, but the plethora of costumes and strange accessories during the holiday season can be a detriment to employee safety and contribute to a higher than average number of trips and falls (are those elf shoes really safe enough for you to be dancing around the office in?)

Decorations – I am not sure how old the mini Christmas tree we put up each year is, but I’m guessing it’s getting up there and I can only hope the lights aren’t as old. I know it’s hard to part with decorations that have been part of your holiday tradition for the past decade or so, but to ensure employee safety, it’s important to make sure you check all cords to be sure they’re not cracking, fraying or so stacked up on top of one another in the outlets that you’re going to short out the office building.

Contests - A lot of my clients are giving holiday employee awards for office decorating contests this year and one of my favorite things is getting to see pictures of all of them. One of the most notable aspects of any design though, tends to be clutter. Streamers, lights, figurines, gift wrapped parts of furniture…all of it lends itself to more things being knocked over, broken and/or tripped over if they’re in high traffic areas of the office. Never one to promote minimalism, I’d be the last to tell them to curb their enthusiasm but with employee safety in mind, it’s certainly important to make sure you practice strategic placement to avoid breakage and fire hazards.

Employee safety is important all year round so if you aren’t already, you may want to consider awarding safety in the workplace with a custom employee safety award program or by starting an employee safety incentive program this coming New Year. By building the safety culture and awarding safe behavior all year long, the hidden hazards that sneak in with the holidays will be easier to spot and your employees will be able to enjoy a happy holiday and a safe new year.

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