As Andy Williams famously sang, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." But the holiday season also poses safety challenges for workers and their families. Not only is that to-do list twice as long, but weather can create road hazards and the flu bug can strike when you least expect it.
Stay Healthy: Avoid the Flu
You can't enjoy holiday celebrations if you're sick, so staying healthy has to be a priority. About 20% of the U.S. population catches the flu every year, making the flu an epidemic – every year.
Germs are spread in respiratory droplets caused by coughing and sneezing. They usually spread from person to person, though sometimes people can become infected by touching contaminated objects. A sick person can infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after.
Use the following resources to create a healthier work environment by educating your employees on how to prevent the spread of germs:
With the holiday season under way, coworkers are decorating their cubicles and taking part in the office potluck.
Safety+Health magazine offers these tips to help prevent injuries while celebrating on the job.
- When hanging decorations, use a step ladder; never stand on a chair
- Don't hang decorations from fire sprinklers
- Inspect all lights, decorations and extension cords for damage before using
- Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many decorations or devices
- Extension cords should never be placed in high-traffic areas or under rugs, carpets or furniture; never nail or staple extension cords to walls
- Use appropriate length extension cords; never connect two extension cords together
- Make sure paths are clear of tripping hazards
- Turn off all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations before leaving
- Check for safe food-handling directions and guidelines
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food
- Serve prepared dishes on clean plates – never on dishes that previously held raw meat
- If you're preparing a dish ahead of time that contains meat, ensure the meat's internal temperature reaches the proper temperature based on USDA recommendations
- Keep hot foods hot; USDA notes that hot foods should be 140° F or warmer; use chafing dishes or slow cookers
- Keep cold foods cold, 40° F or colder, by placing dishes in bowls of ice or by serving in small batches and replenishing from the refrigerator as needed
- Say no to foods that have been sitting out at room temperature for more than two hours
- When planning your menu, be mindful of co-workers' food allergies
'Tis the Season for Shopping
Follow these basic safety tips to make your holiday shopping a success:
- If possible shop with a buddy; it's not only more fun, it's safer
- Park in well-lit areas and remember where you parked
- Keep your vehicle locked and valuables stored out of sight
- Leave your expensive jewelry and hand bags at home
- Don't be distracted by your cell phone; always be aware of your surroundings
- Carry your purse close to your body, with your wallet in your front pocket
- Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason
- Don't get overloaded with packages; try and keep one hand free
- Have keys in hand before you get to your vehicle
- Before you enter your vehicle, look around for suspicious people or situations and glance inside for intruders or signs of break-in
- Always follow your gut; contact security or police if you feel unsafe
Parking Lots Crashes More Common Than You Think
Here's something you might not have considered: More than 50,000 crashes occur in
parking lots and garage structures annually, resulting in more than 500 deaths and more than 60,000 injuries. These numbers spike during the holiday shopping season.
Distraction is one of the leading causes of parking lot incidents. In an NSC poll, 66% of drivers said they would make phone calls while driving through parking lots. Using an app to put your phone on "airplane mode" is one way to
stay focused on driving.
Beware of Online Shopping Scams
You can find lots of great deals online, but if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Phishing emails or advertisements on untrusted websites often are designed to steal personal or credit card information, which can lead to the nightmare of
Following are tips from the Department of Homeland Security for protecting your identity – and your money – online:
- Do your online shopping at home and make sure your wireless network is protected
- Set strong passwords and change them often
- Do not click on links or pop-ups, open attachments or respond to emails from strangers
- Read online reviews and consider the reputation of the site
- Look for a secure checkout, with a web address that starts with https
The Federal Trade Commission also offers
these tips to help you stay safe and secure online.
Many people choose to travel by automobile, with the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation. In 2015, 386 people died on Thanksgiving Day, 273 on Christmas Day and 355 on New Year's Day according to
Injury Facts 2017. Alcohol-impaired fatalities averaged 36% of the totals.
Bring Safety Home
The home is the heart of the family around the holidays. So deck those halls and let it snow – but
keep safety top of mind.
Fire risk increases as holiday candles and fireplace use increases. In December, 12% of home fires begin with candles, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Working smoke alarms cut the chances of dying in a home fire in half. Keeping live trees watered and avoiding the use of turkey fryers also keeps fire hazards down.
When giving gifts, be sure to check the
Consumer Product Safety Commission for recalls, and avoid small parts –
like button batteries – that can harm or even kill young children.
When entertaining guests, make sure any prescription medications are out of reach and locked up. If you – like 60% of Americans – have leftover drugs in the house, locate a
drug take-back program. In the U.S., one person dies every 24 minutes from a
prescription opioid overdose and most people who misuse opioid pain relievers obtain them from a friend or family member.