It’s a busy time of year even without the pressures of gift-giving—between travel, inclement weather, and increased demands on virtually every consumer product manufacturing industry, the winter months bring additional stress for everyone. That’s especially true for workers, and the risks of workplace injury don’t take the holidays off. Many of the risks that employees and their managers must contend with actually grow during the holiday season, thanks to external factors that tend to increase fatigue, decrease overall awareness and focus, and bring about more injuries that can take workers off the job.
No one wants to deal with a workplace injury during the holiday season. During this time of year, it’s more important than ever to stay focused on safety and ensure that workers are mindful of the additional risks they may face in the holiday months. In the spirit of a safe and productive holiday season, here are five tips for preventing workplace injuries during the holiday season.
1) Address environmental hazards
When the weather grows colder and the winter storms arrive, they bring with them an increased risk of injuries from slips, falls, and slides. It’s especially important this time of year to review the worksite for hazards that come with the changing seasons, which include ice on walkways roads. For those in the transportation or freight industries, this is an especially difficult time of year, as road accidents are more common and the risks to drivers increase. Given the increase in deliveries around the holidays, there will be more vehicles and more distance covered than at other times of year; drivers should be well-versed in proper movement techniques to enter and exit their vehicles on slippery ground. Likewise, managers at worksites should keep an eye out for ice hazards and provide extra protective clothing where possible.
2) Manage fatigue
Dealing with workplace fatigue is a year-round challenge, and it’s always important to have a proactive fatigue risk management system in place to help reduce the risks of fatigue-related injuries. Fatigue levels among workers often spike during the holiday season, especially in retail and shipping. When workers become fatigued as a result of not getting sufficient restful sleep, their awareness and focus suffer. On the job, this means lower productivity and a greater risk of injury. The risk doesn’t end there, however—vehicle accidents during workers’ commutes also increase when workers commit long shifts, especially in the evening or nighttime hours. Generally, fatigue costs employers some $136.4 billion per year in lost productivity and injury-related expenses. Don’t let fatigue get in the way of a successful holiday season.
3) Reinforce best practices and movement techniques
Because the holidays bring such an influx of retail, production, and transportation activity, there is likely to be an increase in the amount of energy your employees have to exert on a daily basis. Workers in warehouses and retail stores are required to spend long periods on their feet and often must lift heavy boxes or products alone, one of the most common causes of workplace injuries. Smart managers will anticipate the busy season with training follow-ups and informational materials at the work site, encouraging employees to refresh their knowledge of the best practices and techniques that will help them stay safe on the job this season.
4) Consider investing in on-site pain relief
When things get hectic on the job this winter, it may be helpful to have someone physically present at the work site to provide pain relief for employees whose jobs may contribute to work-related discomfort. Overexertion is common in these weeks, and when pain arises, an on-site specialist who can alleviate the problem in real-time may save your enterprise thousands in claims and costs from missed work.
5) Focus on keeping spirits bright
We all know that this time of year can be challenging, between busy stretches at work and all the added pressures that come with the holidays. For employees, fatigue and the demands of the season can cause frustration, depression, anxiety, and other mental and emotional stressors. Managers should be more focused than ever on maintaining a positive, safety-forward work environment to ensure that employees know their contribution is appreciated and their work valued. It may be helpful to reinforce your safety messaging and engage directly with workers to address their specific concerns around safety.
This holiday season, we hope you’ll find the time to be with friends and family along with staying on top of the demands of work. Remember to keep your finger on the pulse of safety at your work site and your business can have a rewarding and successful holiday.