SME's Safety Santa: Making a List and Checking it Twice

12.15.17   Mark A. Halloway, OHST | More by this Author

SME's Safety Santa: Making a List and Checking it Twice

Santa knows the holidays are a busy time. Often in the hustle and bustle, we lose sight of what is safe. To ensure everyone has a safe and happy holiday, he is sharing a few helpful tips. 

  1. If you will have a real Christmas tree in your house, select a fresh tree. A fresh tree will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard than a dry tree. Tree freshness tips to remember:
    • A fresh tree is green.
    • Fresh needles are hard to pull from branches.
    • When bent between your fingers, fresh needles do not break.
    • The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin.
    • When the trunk of a tree is bounced on the ground, a shower of falling needles shows that tree is too dry.
    • Cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption. Set tree trunk in the base of a sturdy, water-holding stand with wide spread feet. Keep the stand filled with water while it is indoors.
    • Place the tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Heated rooms dry trees out rapidly, creating fire hazards.
  2. If you will have an artificial Christmas tree in your house, select a tree with a statement specifying fire resistance protection. Look for labels indicating fire rating testing from Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and/or FM Approvals (FM).
    • Avoid putting electrical light strings on metallic trees. A metallic tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted! To avoid this danger, use colored spotlights above or beside a metallic tree.
  3. When putting up lights and electrically powered decorations, use lights and decorations that are tested for electrical safety and use appropriate power receptacles and equipment.
    • Indoors or outside, use lights that have been tested for safety. Identify these by labels from an independent testing laboratory (the UL or FM label).
    • Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they are certified for outdoor use. Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
    • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets!
    • Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Lights could experience a short circuit and start a fire.
    • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord
    • Use only lights that have plugs containing fuses.
  4. Candles can be festive and accentuate the holiday atmosphere but should be used safely.
    • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens.
    • Always use non-flammable candle holders.
    • Keep candles away from other decorations and wrapping paper.
    • Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over.
  5. Safely access high places to install lights and decorations.
    • Always use the proper step stool or ladder to reach high places. Don’t stand on chairs, desks or other furniture.
    • When you climb, always face the ladder and grip the rungs to climb – not the side rails. Always keep three points of contact on the ladder whether two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.
    • When climbing, keep your hips between the side rails and do not lean too far or overreach. Reposition the ladder closer to the work instead.
    • A straight or extension ladder should be placed one foot away from the surface it rests against for every four feet of ladder height, and extend three feet above the landing surface.
    • Use ladders with slip-resistant feet and wear clean, dry and slip-resistant shoes when climbing a ladder.
    • When using ladders outdoors, get down immediately if high winds, rain, snow or other inclement weather begins. Winds can blow you off the ladder and rain or snow can make both the rungs and the ground slippery.
  6. Use designated drivers (people who do not drink alcohol) to get yourself home safely or drive other guests home after a holiday party. Or, allow guests to stay overnight or arrange for a taxi cab or third-party ride-sharing service to take guests home.
  7. Prepare, serve, and store meals and snacks safely.
    • When preparing food, wash your hands before and after. Wash utensils, the sink, and anything else that has come in to contact with raw poultry or meat.
    • Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw it in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.
    • Use a clean food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature before serving.
    • When reheating leftovers, bring the temperature up to at least 165°F to eliminate any bacterial growth.
    • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in covered shallow containers (less than two inches deep) within two hours after cooking.
  8. Shop safely in brick and mortar stores. Many people carry larger amounts of cash for holiday shopping and have numerous gift items in their possession or in vehicles.
    • If possible, shop in groups, not alone.
    • Walk with others in parking lots or request store security personnel to accompany you to your car.
    • Never leave gifts, packages, or other items of value, such as cell phones, GPS devices, laptops or purses in vehicles where they can be seen through car windows. Secure items in the trunk.
  9. Shop safely online.
    • Look for security clues on websites.
    • Use a credit card to shop online because most card issuers provide online fraud protection that does NOT apply to debit card transactions.
    • If you choose to shop online with your debit card, make sure the “http” turns to “https” and a padlock symbol appears in the browser bar on the checkout page before you enter any billing information.
    • Many sites also post the “VeriSign Secured” checkmark icon, which is another indication of security.
    • Guard your information. Legitimate online stores will not ask for a Social Security number or a checking account number unless you are using a payment system such as PayPal, etc. Any requests for that type of information when using a credit card should be a red flag.
    • Monitor your card after making purchases. If possible, keep online purchases on one credit card. Not only is it an easy way to keep track of what you are purchasing, but if there is an issue with your credit card, you can cancel that one immediately and not have to cancel multiple cards.
    • Be wary of holiday shopping efforts to lure you. Cyber crooks will adjust to the holiday season, trying to get you to click through to deals that may appear too good to be true (they probably are too good to be true).
  10. For our service area, the winter holidays often mean cold weather. Take precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones against cold weather exposures.
    • Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops below normal. Wind, wet clothing, and physical exhaustion can lead to hypothermia even when temperatures are above freezing. Wind speed and moisture can create dangerously cold conditions even when the temperature is not that low. Early symptoms of hypothermia include increased heart rate, uncontrollable shivering, and numbness/pain in extremities.
    • Frostbite occurs when body tissue freezes during exposure to cold or by touching an object with a surface temperature below freezing. Fingers, toes, ears, nose, and cheeks are most vulnerable to frostbite, and previously frostbitten body parts are more susceptible to frostbite in the future. Symptoms of frostbite include feelings of coldness, numbness, and tingling. The affected skin can turn white or grayish in color. Warm the frostbitten body part gently in warm water or by wrapping it with blankets, sheets, etc. Don’t rub affected body parts, expose affected body parts to direct heat sources, or drink caffeinated beverages or alcoholic beverages.
    • The wind chill makes it feel much colder and magnifies the cold-related hazard of winter weather. At 150 F with a 15 m.p.h. wind speed, it feels like 00 F.
    • Dress in layers so you can adjust to changing conditions.
    • Significant body heat is lost through your head so wear a hat or hood (re: hat - preferably one that covers your ears).
    • Mittens provide more warmth to your hands than gloves.
    • Wear waterproof, insulated boots.
    • If your clothes get wet, change into dry clothing as soon as possible.
  11. Winter holidays also frequently bring with them the challenges hazardous driving conditions due to inclement weather. Remember SPACE:
    • Speed. The number 1 cause of winter driving accidents is driving too fast for the conditions. The faster you drive, the less reaction time you have. Posted speed limits are for dry, clear pavement conditions. Adjust your speed to allow for greater stopping distances on roads impacted by snow/ice/water.
    • Patience. Patience and courtesy save lives, limbs, and project a positive, professional image of you and SME. Keep your emotions under control and don’t allow the actions of other drivers to cause you to act recklessly or unprofessionally.
    • Awareness. Awareness of other vehicles and your driving environment are essential. Don’t rely on the driver in front of you. You can’t predict the actions of another driver. Stay alert and ready for sudden stops by vehicles in front of you and pay attention to traffic 10 vehicle lengths ahead. Be alert/aware of what’s going on all around you too, not just what’s happening ahead.
    • Concentration. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted while driving. The increased hazards of winter driving make driver concentration even more important.
    • Exit. Always leave yourself an “out.” Leave enough distance between you and other vehicles so you can safely stop or maneuver. Expect the unexpected.
  12. Make sure you are properly prepared and equipped for winter driving:
    • Keep an ice scraper and snow brush in the vehicle. Use windshield washer solvent rated for sub-freezing conditions.
    • Dress warmly. Keep an extra coat/jacket or blanket in the vehicle for emergencies.
    • Keep a flashlight in the vehicle. Check batteries and replace as needed. Keep a pack of matches or a lighter and a candle in the vehicle.
    • Keep a small amount of snacks or non-perishable food items and drinking water in the vehicle in case you get stranded.
    • Keep a set of jumper cables in the vehicle.
    • Make sure the tires on your vehicle have adequate tread and are inflated to the proper pressure.
    • Consider putting on snow tires for the winter season and keeping a bag of kitty litter or sand in the trunk to help provide traction if you get stuck.
    • Keep the fuel tank at least half-full to help avoid fuel line freezing.
    • Check traffic reports on road conditions and plan your route. In severe winter weather, attempt to stay on main thoroughfares and highways as opposed to lesser-travelled secondary roads. Let others know your itinerary and estimated time of arrival.
  13. During cold and flu season be sure to wash your hands as frequently as possible, avoid touching your face, get a good night’s sleep, and eat healthy and exercise.
    •  If you do get a cold or the flu, please call in sick to rest and avoid spreading the illness to your coworkers.

TAGS: Safety

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