The Safe Shop

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Holiday Hazards

When Decking the Halls, Don't Get Decked

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Holiday decorations and festivities can help improve employee morale, but it's important to keep workplace holiday safety in mind.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 18,400 people nationally are treated for falls, cuts, shocks, and burns due to incidents involving faulty holiday lights, dried-out Christmas trees and other holiday decorations.

By following safety precautions it’s relatively easy to avoid potential property damage and personal injuries.

Typical Holiday Accidents

The National Safety Council tells us:

  • On average, about 5,800 people, or two to three every hour, are treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries that occurred while decorating during the average holiday season.
  • Candle fires peak in December. The top day for candle fires is Christmas Day, followed by Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. Candle-ignited home fires results in 166 deaths each year and close to 13,000 injuries. Never leave burning candles unattended. Plan and practice your family fire escape route.
  • More and more children are going to the emergency department for exposure to medications. Every year, almost 60,000 children visit the emergency room for unintentional drug poisonings. With family and friends visiting during the holidays, ask houseguests to keep purses, bags, or coats that have medicines in them up and away and out of sight when they are in your home.
  • Cooking and hosting are a huge part of the holiday season. Every year, over 80 million people get sick from a food-borne illness. Take the correct food safety precautions to keep your loved ones healthy and safe.
  • In December 2017, there were 880 people killed in crashes that involved drivers or motorcycle riders with blood alcohol concentrations of .08 or higher. Celebrate safely; drive sober.

Holiday Fun, Holiday Stress, Holiday Accidents

(Provided by SeaBright Insurance Loss Control, Seattle)

All year long you’ve heard messages reminding you to “work safely… don’t take shortcuts… prevent accidents….” To do this, of course, you must keep your mind on your work. But this time of the year, your mind may be everywhere else but on your work.

  • Normal routines and schedules are disrupted, which can feel uncomfortable.
  • With so much to do, there’s a lot of rushing around to get it done.
  • “Ghosts of Christmas Past” can remind us of disappointments and bring on depression.

Be aware that you may be more likely to have an accident at this time of the year—on the job, at home or on the road. At work, you may be distracted by personal matters or financial concerns and overlook safe work practices. At home, tension between family members is sometimes high, since each one feels both the good and bad holiday stress.

Out-of-sorts people tend to be accident prone. You may also find yourself taking extra physical risks—hanging colored lights on the roof, lugging a Christmas tree around, or shoveling snow. When roads and freeways are jammed with frustrated drivers the number of auto accidents increases. Driving defensively is important, and no time could be better than the holidays to remember that.

If you’re facing stress this holiday season, take steps to manage it so you don’t have an accident on the way! Keeping in mind that the holidays put extra pressure on everyone may help keep you and your loved ones accident-free to enjoy the season

Holiday Best Practices

(Source - State Compensation Insurance Fund, State of California )

Holiday decorations should create higher morale at the workplace, not hazards and potential for accidents and injuries, so take proper precautions. Choose artificial greenery made of fire-retardant materials for office decorating. All decorations (including trees, wreaths, curtains/drapes, hangings, etc.) should be either noncombustible (not all artificial trees are), inherently flame-retardant (check the label), or have been treated with a flame-retardant solution.


  • Consider an artificial tree which poses less risk than a live one.
  • If using an artificial tree, check that it is labeled “fire-resistant.”
  • Make sure live trees always have water so as not to dry out & become a fire hazard.

Electric Lights

  • Before plugging in electrical decorations, carefully check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed, loose or bare wires, or loose connections.
  • Only use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors, and choose the right ladder for the task when hanging lights.
  • Don't overload extension cords, which could overheat and start a fire. Use no more than three light-string sets per single extension cord.
  • Decorating the workplace can result in falls and dangerous tripping hazards. Avoid placing trees, gifts, or freestanding decorations in busy areas where people might run into them or trip over them

Trimmings/Other Decorations

  • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials. Choose tinsel, artificial icicles, plastic or non-leaded metals.
  • Never place trimmings near open flames or electrical connections.


  • Candles contribute to 10,000 fires per year. They are generally not safe to use in the workplace or home.
  • Never leave lit candles unattended. Extinguish candles before leaving the workplace.
  • Use flameless, rather than lighted, candles near flammable objects.

Parties, Alcohol and Driving

  • Preparation for holiday parties: Decorate only with flame-retardant or non-combustible materials.
  • Holiday food preparation: Store and serve foods at proper temperatures.
  • Holiday parties: Being a smart party host or guest should include being sensible about alcoholic drinks. More than half of all traffic fatalities are alcohol-related.

Reminder: Safety is the responsibility of both management and employees!


The information herein is provided by the Natural Stone Institute as a general summary for use in job site toolbox talks and is provided to augment and not substitute for or replace required training under any applicable local, state or federal workplace statute, law or regulation. It is the user’s responsibility to ensure this content is consistent with job site requirements and applicable statutes, laws or regulations prior to use and make any required additions or changes.

For More Information

The Natural Stone Institute


Oberlin, Ohio