With the holidays approaching, it is a good time to make a plan for staying safe. The hustle and bustle of shopping, driving, traveling, and planning celebrations brings increased risk, both at work and at home. Far too often this leads to injury or even death. By recognizing and being aware of common hazards, we can avoid many of these incidents, ensuring a happy holiday season.
In 2018, 36,560 Americans were killed and 2,710,000 injured in traffic accidents. For most of us, driving is our most dangerous daily activity. The holidays bring trips, shopping, parties, and dinners that necessitate driving, often in dangerous winter road conditions. Decreased sunlight, distracted drivers, and increased traffic all combine to result in a rise in accidents. Additionally, alcohol consumption increases during the holidays, adding the potential for impaired drivers on the roads. Keep all this in mind as you plan your activities.
All the extra holiday activities take time, which often comes at the cost of lost sleep. After being awake 18 hours, our driving ability decreases to the equivalent of a blood alcohol level of 0.05, the Utah DUI limit. Fatigue affects not only driving, but also work performance through decreases in decision making and coordination. Schedule holiday activities to minimize disruption of your sleep routine and consider taking time off work for activities if possible. Try to schedule a breaks before any critical tasks or decisions; a few minutes to refocus can have positive impacts on the outcome.
Approximately 2,000 people a year are injured in falls related to holiday decorating, with almost half of these involving ladders. These are not minor injuries, with 47% of falls from ladders resulting in hospitalizations. Ice and snow, low light, fatigue and frustration all contribute to these accidents. Make sure you use ladders according to instructions, particularly when hanging holiday lights on houses.
Over 1,000 fires are caused by holiday decorations each year, and 20 percent of these are from Christmas trees. Tragically, around 20 people die each year as a result of these fires. Inspect all decorations before use, looking for any damage. If you have a live tree, water it daily. Make sure all decorations are unplugged when you are asleep or not at home. Avoid candles or use battery operated candles as an alternative.
Potlucks are a big part of the holidays. Unfortunately, so is a rise in food poisoning, usually traced back to improper food handling. The danger zone of 40° to 140° is where bacteria rapidly multiplies. Minimize the amount of time your food is in this range. Also common are allergic reactions. There are eight major food allergens — milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. If it isn’t obvious one of these is in your favorite holiday dish, consider labeling it to warn any sensitive friends.
Staying alert to the risks and taking actions while enjoying the holidays can mean the difference between enjoying one of our greatest times of year or enduring tragedy. We should all strive to make it through the seasons incident-free.