Warding Off Holiday Injuries

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says there were approximately 15,000 injuries involving holiday decorating in November and December 2012. This translates to 250 injuries per day during the holiday season! Of these 15,000 emergency room visits, 34 percent involved falls, while 11 percent were the results of lacerations and another 10 percent stemmed from strained backs.

In New England, the month of December often means the beginning of "slip in the parking lot season." These are workers who park their car at 7 a.m. and do not make it into the building. Employers should develop a plan to maintain parking lots and walkways and should consider freeze/thaw cycles that occur early in the season.

The office cubicle decorating contest promotes seasonal creativity, and competition can get fierce. Problems arise when we stand on our office chair, a desktop, or a cardboard box to reach those hard-to-get-to places. Even the storage room company ladder or step stool, in good condition and set up properly, can expose employees to hazards not common in the office environment. Inspect and utilize these tools properly. Avoid standing on your chair, especially one with rolling casters.

Holiday decorations look great but may be highly flammable. According to CPSC, from 2009-2011, tree and candle fires caused 80 deaths, 700 injuries, and $324 million in property loss. Consider the power source used to light up your office: Extension cords with exposed wires and missing ground prongs should be inspected and removed from service.

Increased holiday demands in the workplace means seasonal hiring. According to Insurance Journal magazine, in the retail sector alone, 2013 saw 786,200 workers hired for the holiday season. All workers experience workplace stress, increased physical demand, fatigue, and behavioral issues. Add this to the personal stress we feel during the holiday season, and the odds of workplace injuries increase. Unsafe behaviors, not unsafe conditions, are responsible for nearly 80 percent of workplace injuries. Focus on these behaviors along with your compliance prevention strategies.

Policyholders can visit the MEMIC Safety Director to obtain prevention resources on slips, trips, falls, electrical safety, fires, and ladder safety. For additional training, review MEMIC's archived webinars on topics such as order fulfillment safety; slips, trips, and falls; and winter driving.

This is a magical time of the year, but it can also be a stressful time. Let's not make it a season to remember the time you fell off of your desk putting up decorations.

Eric Grant is a Safety Management Consultant with MEMIC (www.memic.com). He has more than 20 years of experience in the construction and manufacturing industries, having been an environmental consultant for a national consulting firm specializing in environmental and occupational hygiene services, a regional safety manager for a large Midwestern construction firm, and a safety specialist at a well-known sporting goods/clothing retailer and manufacturer in Maine. He is an authorized instructor in the OSHA Construction and General Industry Outreach Training Program and is a Certified Advanced Safety Professional.

Posted by Eric Grant on Dec 07, 2015

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