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Deck the halls and check the falls this holiday season

A friend likes to tell the story of taking a shuttle to La Guardia one wintry morning maybe 20 years ago. It was a van, and it was packed. She was crushed against the window, with a complete stranger almost in her lap. What do you do in those situations? You stare out the window.

The stranger broke the silence. "Lord have mercy," he said, "people are stupid." Sure enough, in the car next to the van was a woman, riding in the passenger seat, holding a baby in her lap with one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. "All she needs is a cocktail," our friend replied. She and the stranger had a lovely chat as they crawled to the airport.

We have all made bad choices and done stupid things. We want to help employers and their workers avoid some dumb choices that so many people make during the holidays. Please, when you are preparing for and working through the holidays at the office or in the store or wherever, keep these few pointers in mind.

  • Inspect holiday lights and all electric decorations to confirm that they are working properly.
  • Double check smoke detectors and fire safety systems, and make sure every employee knows what to do in every type of emergency.
  • Use common sense when hanging decorations inside or outside. Don't overload outlets, don't staple electrical cords to keep them in place, and don't use inside lights outside. Don't block exits with Hansel and Gretel's snow-covered cabin, either.
  • Nothing is more festive than seeing holiday decorations at night. Nothing is less worth the risk than leaving lights and décor items plugged in after hours, when no one is there to attend to them.
  • Live Christmas trees -- we could devote an entire post to the things that can go wrong with live Christmas trees. Consider taking a page from Lucy van Pelt's book: Get the biggest [fire-rated] aluminum tree you can find, maybe painted pink, and celebrate in a modern way.

As they say across the river in New Jersey, you don't hurt us, and we won't hurt you. Keep that in mind for the next month or so, and keep the holidays safe for your staff and your coworkers.

Source: Insurance Journal, "‘Tis the Season for Workplace Safety," Woody Hill, Nov. 7, 2014

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