The holiday season is fast approaching and between inclement weather, poorly trained temporary workers and a host of other hazards, your employees may face more dangers than at any other time of the year. Stress, fatigue and holiday indulgences can also make workers less safe — as can rushing to meet end-of-year deadlines.
Avoid Excessive OvertimeOverall, workplace safety may require some extra work in the winter, particularly if your employees are on the job outdoors. To keep everyone as safe as possible, heed the following holiday tips.
It’s tempting to allow more overtime than usual during the holidays. Deadlines are approaching, key employees are out on vacation, and your remaining workers are more than willing to pick up the slack for extra pay.
However, long hours and little sleep contribute to injuries. A University of Massachusetts Medical School study found that overtime schedules were associated with a 61 percent higher injury rate than standard work schedules, and that 54 percent of work-related injuries observed over 13 years included extended hours or commute times. Participants working longer shifts and extra days were also more likely to experience high blood pressure, depression, cardiac problems and chronic infections.
While some overtime is unavoidable, extreme schedules will burn workers out and leave them too sick or too hurt to work throughout the winter. To keep your full-time employees happy, healthy and productive in the long run, a better short-term solution may be to hire more temporary workers.
Moderate Alcohol Consumption
Most people enjoy a few extra drinks during the holidays, but excessive alcohol consumption is a major contributor to workplace accidents during the winter. In fact, one hospital emergency department study showed that 35 percent of patients with an occupational injury were at-risk drinkers. Encourage your employees to moderate their consumption at home, and strictly enforce drug and alcohol policies during working hours.
Fully Train Temporary Workers
With fewer skills and less experience, temporary workers tend to face greater risks performing any given job. And, even when they are experienced in a given field, their lack of familiarity with your specific facilities and jobsites can lead to more accidents. To reduce these risks, make sure your temporary employees receive the same comprehensive safety training as your full-time workers.
Temporary employees aren’t the only people who need extra training during the holidays. As you enter the year’s coldest, most stressful months, it may be wise to hold additional training and education sessions for your full-time workers. Classes on cold weather safety, stress management and even financial planning can help them handle the holiday blues while remaining focused and on-task at work.
Hold Toolbox Talks
Regular meetings are always important, but it’s often wise to increase their frequency during the most hectic times of the year. Weekly and even daily toolbox talks allow workers to voice concerns, reduce stress and discuss ways to keep one another safe and accountable.
Take Wintertime Precautions
When ice, snow and freezing temperatures are the norm, you need to take extra precautions to protect your workers from both illness and injury. A few of the most important wintertime precautions include:
- Hand washing and sanitizing
- Healthy meals
- Adequate sleep
- Frequent breaks
- Working during warmer hours
- Engineering controls
- Shutdown checklists
- Incident tracking
Finally, the hazards and unpredictability of the holiday season often require some additional flexibility. When your experienced workers are out on vacation, your supply lines are interrupted, and your work is interrupted by snow and ice, you may not be able to keep everything running according to plan. Ultimately, short-term delays will have far less of an impact on your workers and your business than a major accident caused by rushing and unsafe practices.
As a safety manager, you want to be sure your employees are always safe and provide them with the right resources to do their job well. To help you excel at this, download our guide, 9 Ways to Make Your Job as a Safety Manager Easier.