Halloween is upon us.
Despite retail displays of snowmen and Santas hot on the heels of candy corn and jack-o-lanterns, most of us are “in the moment” enough to look toward Thanksgiving rather than Christmas after the ghosts and goblins have gone away. Still, the point remains: For the remainder of the calendar year, there will be one holiday or another on the horizon.
In many workplaces, that means parties, decorations, costumes and all the other little things designed to put a bit more joy into the shorter, colder days. Unfortunately, all of these little things can add up to a more hazardous workplace if appropriate precautions aren’t taken to make sure they don’t.
Costumes can be a pleasant addition to the customary dress code of any workplace during holidays. Halloween especially brings attention to the inclination of some to dress up.
If your workplace allows workers to dress up, it is important to ensure costumes workers wear are safe. Masks can limit the ability of wearers to see all of their surroundings and may present security concerns, as identifying the wearer of a mask can prove difficult. Capes, loose fitting garments, ties and strings all pose hazards as well. In addition to presenting a risk of slips, trips and falls, a costume with such elements can get caught in equipment and spell trouble for the wearer.
If your workplace allows workers to dress up, supervisors should exhort caution in costume selection to reduce the likelihood that costumes will provide any more fuss than necessary. Offensive costumes can contribute to workplace hostility and suggestive or provocative attire can be a distraction. A little discretion can go a long way.
Holidays are a great time for workers and their families to show off their prowess in the kitchen and for employers to show their generosity by providing goodies for workers through holiday times.
As if being mindful of workplace allergies, dietary restrictions and food preferences wasn’t enough of a concern while providing food for the holidays, there is food safety to be concerned about as well. Perishable foods must be stored appropriately or thrown away promptly to prevent the spread of foodborne illness. Even punch and cake can contribute to the spread of disease if workers share drinking cups or utensils without washing them adequately. This is especially true during the cold and flu season, which aligns with the holiday season almost perfectly.
Holiday parties help take a bite out of the monotony of everyday work and can be a good excuse for workers to socialize outside of their workplace duties. Whether onsite or offsite, be sure party plans have an eye toward safety and health.
Take appropriate steps to discourage overdrinking, or keep alcohol away from your parties altogether. If you have a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy that forbids drinking in the workplace don’t “make an exception” for holiday parties.
Decorating the office or allowing workers to decorate their desk or workstation helps to liven up drab surroundings, but it needn’t introduce new hazards or interfere with safety plans already in place.
Lights, animated figures and the like generally pose little threat, but together with candles and space heaters, the number of fire threats during the winter months increase dramatically.
Make sure extinguishers, sprinklers and doorways remain free from obstruction, and exercise caution with any sprayable decor, as the propellents are often highly flammable.
Workplace festivities are an important part of building a business’ culture. Help employees navigate the lengthy holiday season without injury or illness and with a smile on their face by making safety the centerpiece of every celebration.