Holiday Work Safety Tips
December 21, 2017
No one wants to sit out during the holiday season and miss family time because of medical complications from injuries, illnesses or disabilities. However, certain dangerous situations are more likely to occur in workplaces throughout the holiday season, like fires, falls and complications from inclement weather. Luckily, there are many precautions that individuals can take – especially in the workplace – to limit the chances of preventable workplace accidents that often result in lost time and wages from work, permanent disabilities or sometimes, even death.
Holiday decorations typically pop up around the office or workplace to showcase holiday cheer, but the truth is that the decorations can be also dangerous. This is one particular reason why it is crucial for employers to provide comprehensive fire training that includes instructing workers on how to safely exit buildings in the case of emergencies. Fires can start in workplaces in a variety of ways (e.g. thermal fires, electrical fires, etc.), but having candles, Christmas trees or powered decorations make fires more likely to occur.
It’s important to remember that no matter how often a person has done a task in the past, mistakes can be made that lead to catastrophic consequences. Employees who are work at elevated heights – like being on a ladder – are at a higher risk for sustaining injuries resulting in musculoskeletal disorders, broken bones, concussions, traumatic brain injuries or death as a result of falling. Some tips that can help prevent these kinds of dangerous falls from occurring include:
- Always inspect each ladder every time before use;
- Make sure that all ladders are firmly placed and level to avoid tip-over risks;
- Avoid leaning too far to either side, and:
- If you’re using a metal ladder, be especially wary of power lines or any other type of electrical equipment since they conduct electricity – and always observe a safe working distance;
- Never place ladders in front of blocked, guarded or locked doors;
- Do not walk on the top step (also known as a “bucket shelf”) of a ladder;
- If a ladder appears damaged in any way (e.g. bent, missing a step, etc.) do not use it and report it to a supervisor, and:
- Ensure that you observe all structural and weight guidelines
While there are many steps that workers can take to better help protect themselves in the workplace, employers need to take adequate safety measures and precautions to limit the number of recognizable hazards that workers face. Because many individuals may not know exactly what an employer’s legal responsibilities for employee health and safety are, here are a few key examples from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):
- Employers must regularly inspect workplaces to ensure that they meet OSHA safety requirements;
- Employers must maintain workplaces that are free from serious and recognized hazards;
- Employees must have access to safe equipment and tools – and employers must ensure that the tools/equipment are properly and safely maintained;
- Known hazards must be identified with OSHA-compliant signs, and:
- Employers have to provide comprehensive safety training
It’s no surprise that it is usually cold during the holiday season. For individuals who work outdoors, cold exposure and stress are both major health and safety risks. Cold stress is categorized by the body’s inability to properly reheat itself and it can end up resulting in permanent fatal injuries. Some of the most common complications from cold stress are hypothermia, trench foot, frostbite and hypertension. Some good tips on how employers can help employees avoid cold stress include using radiant heaters, giving frequent breaks to allow the body to reheat, conducting frequent check-ins to observe workers’ physical conditions, providing warm, sweet beverages that are alcohol-free and utilizing a buddy system.
One of the main reasons that employers are legally obligated to maintain safe working environments is to stop preventable accidents from happening. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 4,836 fatal work injuries in 2015, the highest number recorded since 2008. OSHA estimates that at least 4 million workers sustain nonfatal injuries and illnesses every year, some of which require follow-up medical treatment, risky surgical procedures, physical therapy and rehabilitation as well as lost time and wages from work.
Some people work longer hours and extra days before the holiday season to get ready for gift-buying and taking extra time off from their job to celebrate. Although many workplaces (especially those with a greater number of known hazards, such as in the construction industry) have injury, illness and death prevention plans in place, serious accidents still occur at far too high of a rate. While employees should work carefully, obey rules and regulations and report any risks that they observe, employers need to be especially vigilant about protecting the overall health and safety of all employees. Here at Galfand Berger, we wish you and your loved ones a happy – and safe – holiday. If you have any questions or concerns about hazards in your workplace or an injury that you sustained as a result of safety failures on the job, please contact a representative at our firm.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Represent Individuals Injured on the Job
If you were injured because of safety failures in the workplace, please contact our Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Galfand Berger serves clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.