An Elf’s Guide to Keeping Your Coworkers Safe this Holiday Season.

If you’re reading this, congratulations!  You have made it safely through Thanksgiving and have managed to avoid kitchen fire, food poisoning and being trampled on Black Friday.  You are no stranger to holiday safety precautions, but you’re not out of woods just yet!  Nope!  You’ve still got to survive the rest of the holiday season at work!  Now, dealing with the different types of co-worker holiday personalities is a challenge in itself, but unfortunately I can’t help you with that.  What I can do is help you to avoid workplace safety hazards that are likely to emerge.  Let’s get started!

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We know some businesses completely prohibit decorations because of safety concerns or sensitivity to differences in beliefs, but many companies will allow some form of holiday decorations.  Some decorations will be initiated by upper management and done in a uniform manner, but some companies will allow individuals to decorate how they please. If you’re one of the lucky employees that gets to decorate your work space, then this guide is for you!

Our first item is choosing the right decorations.  You may have decorations stored away that you bring out every year, or you may be starting anew.  Either way, there are some things to remember.  First, with workplace decorations, you want to remember that less is more.  If you keep the decorations simple it will be easy for you to manage them and be aware if there are any issues such as decorations getting in your coworker’s way, decorations falling in your coworker’s coffee, that sort of thing.  When placing your decorations you will want to keep them out of main walkways and out of areas where people have to change their usual habits to avoid them.  This will keep people from complaining, tripping over decorations and possibly having accidents or sustaining injuries.Holiday 2.jpg

Next on the list is the Christmas tree.  Should your office decide to have a Christmas tree I suggest getting an artificial, flame retardant tree rather than a real tree.  There are several reasons.  One is that real trees can dry out very quickly and become a major fire hazard.  Sure, you can keep it well watered, but then that creates another potential issue.  If anything should happen that makes that tree tip over or if the container of water spills somehow, not only can somebody slip on the water, but it can damage electronics or the floor and/or carpet.

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If you have a tree, or even if you don’t, you will probably want to use string lighting for either the tree or another area, say, around your cubicle.  You should use lights that are UL-listed. Check the color-coded UL mark on the product’s package. A green holographic UL mark says, “indoors only, please,” while a red one indicates that the product is safe for both indoor and outdoor use.  Inspect the string lights for frayed wires, damage or missing or broken bulbs before use.  If any bulbs are missing or broken, be sure to replace the bulb with one of the proper wattage.  Using too high of a wattage can cause the string to overheat and can cause a fire.  Don’t hang your lights using push pins or nails.  You could accidentally damage the wires and cause a shock hazard or fire hazard.

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With lights you’ll need a power outlet.  If your office is anything like mine, open outlets can be scarce.  If you need to use a power strip make sure it’s plugged directly into a wall outlet and not into an extension cord. Do not string multiple power strips together.  Make sure your extension cords are UL certified.  Do not overload power strips.   This will create a big fire hazard.

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You also don’t want to run your power cords under the rug or across walkways or anywhere else someone might trip over them or even step on them.  Running a cord under a carpet is also a fire hazard because the cord can become frayed from getting stepped on.

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Open flames are usually a big NO NO for the workplace, but I’ll say it anyway. Do not light candles at work unless it’s on a birthday cake!  An open flame is just an accident waiting to happen.  Trust me!  That pumpkin spice scented candle is not worth it!

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With the holidays and the decorations come the workplace holiday party.  Every company does them a little differently.  We’re all familiar with the most common which would be the potluck.  Everybody loves a potluck, but I recommend having the party catered or at a restaurant instead.  Preparing food for a potluck usually means you either have to cook food the night before, wake up early and cook food in the morning, buy something at some point, or in some situations cook it right there in the break room.  We all know lots of things can go wrong with food.  Food that has been sitting too long can cause food poisoning.  Food that is under-cooked can cause food poisoning.  Food that isn’t stored properly, yep you guessed it, food poisoning!  Cooking the food at work can be unsafe too depending on what heat source you are using.  Just have the party catered.  It will be safer and you won’t have to stress yourself out trying to remember if your coworker that brought the dessert is the one who frequently leaves the restroom without washing their hands.holiday-8

Some companies like to have a little brandy with their eggnog, if you know what I mean.  If you really want to have alcohol at your office party, you may want to consider having the party at a restaurant or bar.  For one, people will be more conscious of how much they drink if they are in place that is less like home and let’s face it, work is a second home to many of us.  People will also be more likely to plan for how they will get home safely should they decide to drink.

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The last thing I want to bring up is crowd control.  If your business is likely to have lots of visitors during the holidays  your team should have a crowd control plan.  Too many bodies in one place is always a hazard.  Be sure your workplace is visitor ready.  You and your coworkers may be so familiar with a hazard that nobody even thinks about it anymore, but a guest may stumble upon the hazard the hard way.  If your business gets busy during the holidays you may get some seasonal coworkers.  Do your part to make sure they are trained properly and that they are aware of any hazards.  Many workplace accidents happen because workers don’t receive enough training.

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I hope that you have found these tips helpful and if you make it through the holidays, be sure to come back and visit our blog again.  After all, I kind of saved your life!  Just kidding!  But I hope my advice at least played a role in keeping you and your coworkers safe this holiday season.  Happy Holidays!

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