The holidays are upon us, and just like the increased joy we get from the 12 days leading up to Christmas, there is also an increase in risks and accidents in both residential and commercial workplaces. Read up on these 12 seasonal hazards that can result in unexpected absences, medical expenses and insurance claims.
1. Indoor and Outdoor Decorations
Colorful decorations certainly brighten our winter days and nights, but the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that more than 15,000 people are injured in decorating accidents every holiday season. To make sure you and your employees do not contribute to that statistic this year, use sturdy stepladders, not chairs or desks, to reach those high spots. Also, double-check that extension cords don’t pose a tripping or fire hazard.
2. Christmas Trees
While Christmas trees certainly add to the festive decor, they pose a safety hazard that people may overlook. To avoid risk of fire, set up trees away from heat sources such as fireplaces, vents and heaters, and make sure they don’t block fire exits. Fill the water reservoir of fresh-cut trees daily, and avoid sharp, weighted or breakable decorations.
3. Festive Candles
While most commercial workplaces don’t allow candles, it’s easy to forget during the holidays. The CPSC advises that you keep candles and menorahs away from combustible sources and out of the reach of children and pets. Never leave open flames unattended.
4. Space Heaters
It’s common to get a space heater for those chilly corners of the office or workshop. If not used properly, though, portable electric space heaters can cause fires and electric shocks. The Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends that you buy only certified space heaters and place them in areas with good ventilation, away from the flow of foot traffic and at least three feet from combustible materials.
5. Holiday Parties
One of the things that employees look forward to during the holidays is an office party. If you’re thinking of hosting one, plan ahead to limit liabilities. Remind employees of workplace rules, such as dress codes and anti-harassment policies. If you plan to serve alcohol, supply plenty of food and nonalcoholic beverages, and ensure attendees have access to safe transportation options such as taxi services.
6. Food Poisoning
Culinary delights are a key attraction of the holidays. However, one in six Americans contract foodborne illnesses from contaminated food each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Knowing which foods are risky can help. FDA-regulated foods on the danger list are produce, seafood, eggs and dairy products.
7. Winter Weather
Glistening snow and ice may look romantic on Christmas cards, but those winter elements pose risks in real life. Make sure entranceways, walkways, outdoor stairs and employee parking lots are cleared of snow and ice. This will not only provide safety for you and your employees, but for deliverypeople and visitors, as well.
8. Flu and Colds
Flu and cold viruses are common culprits of absenteeism at this time of year. If not handled carefully, they can pass through an office as fast as holiday cheer. Consider offering on-site vaccinations or health screenings to help reduce the risk. The workplace is an ideal place to provide annual flu shots.
9. Holiday-Related Stress
An American Psychological Association study found that more than 80 percent of the people surveyed anticipate holiday stress caused by lack of time, money issues and overscheduling. You can reduce absenteeism and minimize sick time by creating a positive work environment. Consider offering flexible work hours or daily mental health breaks to demonstrate your commitment to your workforce’s well-being.
10. Employee Theft
Believe it or not, employee theft, especially in retail stores and restaurants, increases significantly over the holidays. Money pressures and easy access to cash can encourage some employees to make bad choices. Two precautions can help: Check cash registers and inventories throughout the day, and make sure your policy on giving away free products is clear.
11. Seasonal Employees
It’s common for businesses to employ temporary workers during the holidays, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that they account for a disproportionate percentage of workplace accidents. Unfamiliarity with equipment, inexperience and inadequate safety training are common causes. Don’t bypass your hiring and safety training for temporary staff, and make sure supervisors and co-workers enforce your safety rules.
12. Data Breaches
According to global security company Symantec, data breaches are at their highest from October through December, so this is not the time to reduce fraud protection measures in favor of speedier purchase transactions. You still need to make the security and privacy of your customer information a top priority.
Alex Quevedo is the SVP/General Manager of ADP’s Insurance Services division. With over 17 years of sales and service leadership experience in financial services, he is passionate about creating winning teams that are empowered to help clients choose the right solutions to meet their business objectives.