Fort Riley, Kansas



SAFETY CORNER - Workplace safety during holidays

By | GARRISON SAFETY OFFICE | December 15, 2017

     Celebrating the holidays is normally fun, but there are safety considerations when it comes to hanging decorations and lights, serving food or dealing with workplace stress. This is a triple whammy and we’ll look at each area separately.



     Lack of planning prior to decorating for the holidays can present several challenges that could lead to a disaster if proper control mea­sures aren’t taken. Ask yourself: What decora­tions are we hanging, where are we hanging them, what special equipment do I need and are lights included in the decorations?

     Hanging decorations need to be high enough off the walking surface to provide clearance for walking. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration uses a minimum height for suspended objects in routes intended to lead from a build­ing as 6 feet 8 inches. This rule will allow most people to walk under the decoration without striking their head. Also, all deco­rations should be firmly attached so they do not fall and strike someone.

     Make sure when you are hanging the decoration you have good footing. Raised platforms without rails presents a hazard es­pecially if you lose situational awareness. Use ladders or step stool instead of a chair. Ladders present significant safety hazards when used incorrectly.



     Prior to adding lights ensure suffi­cient power is available. Also, make sure lights are used in the proper locations — outdoor lights for outdoors and indoor lights for indoors. Plug lights directly into the wall or use a portable power tap or surge protector, and ensure the lights are turned off or unplugged when not at­tended. The Garrison Safety Office has pamphlets on home safety, most of the safety tips in the home safety pamphlet can be applied at work and help reduce the probability or severity of an incident or accident.



     Good food handling practices can re­duce the chances of contracting a food-borne illness. Temperature is one of the keys to reducing the possibility of growing organisms or spoilage. The length of time foods sit in a serving line should be moni­tored closely. If an item is cooked ensure it was cooked to proper temperature prior to serving. Chilled or frozen items should re­main in the refrigerator as long as possible and the time period they sit out without refrigeration should be limited. Use of sep­arate utensils for each item and immediate cleanup of spilled items will help reduce cross contamination. A good practice is to have certified food handlers prepare and serve the food. Check with Public Health on the certification of food handlers.



     Stress can adversely affect workplace safety. Holidays from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day are usually per­ceived to be periods of joy but are also times of high workplace stress that can cause employees to lose situational aware­ness, leading to an incident or accident. This year, in particular, employment changes and uncertain budgetary chal­lenges can add to an employee’s worry or frustration. Paying attention to potential causes of accidents, and the control mea­sures in place to prevent them, will help reduce the chances for accidents.



     Offices can be shorthanded because some workers have “use or lose” leave time available. If there is a critical meeting that must be covered make sure that require­ment is communicated so fellow workers can make adjustments and critical tasks can be covered. Good communication with the attendee and coordination with the meeting organizer can ensure meetings are covered when teammates are on leave. Supervisors should set reasonable goals in what they expect to be accomplished dur­ing the holidays. Preparing, planning and communicating will reduce the probability of an accident and reduce stress.

     For more information about holiday planning contact the USAG, Safety Office, 785-240-0647.