Workplace holiday safety tips

With the holiday season underway, people are feeling festive – including at work. But whether you’re decorating your cubicle or taking part in the office potluck, safety should always remain a top priority. Here are some simple tips to help prevent injuries while celebrating on the job.

Safe decorating

Don’t stand on a chair to hang decorations. Use a stepladder, and make sure to read and follow the instructions and warnings on the label. And never hang decorations from fire sprinklers – they can prevent the sprinklers from operating properly. OSHA regulations state that stacked materials should never be closer than 18 inches below fire sprinklers.

Planning to string decorative lights or other electrical items in your workspace? The Electrical Safety Foundation International, a nonprofit organization, states that workers should:

  • Be sure that all electrical items are certified by a nationally recognized independent testing lab.
  • Inspect all lights, decorations, and extension cords for damage before using.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many decorations or electrical devices – they can overheat and cause a fire.
  • Never try to make a three-prong plug fit into a two-prong outlet.
  • Turn off all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations before leaving.

If you’ll be using an extension cord, here are some additional tips:

  • Refrain from placing extension cords in high-traffic areas of your workplace, or under rugs, carpets, or furniture.
  • Never attempt to extend the length of an extension cord by connecting it to another extension cord.
  • Never nail or staple extension cords to walls – doing so may damage existing wire insulation.
  • Don’t place extension cords in walls or ceilings, as this can cause the cords to overheat.

Food safety

If your workplace is hosting a potluck to celebrate the holidays, keep these safety tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in mind:

  • Bringing a dish to share? Follow safe food-handling guidelines. Always wash your hands before and after handling food, and serve prepared dishes on clean plates – never on dishes that previously held raw meat.
  • If you’re preparing a dish ahead of time that contains meat, ensure the meat’s internal temperature reaches the proper temperature. USDA recommends cooking raw beef, pork, lamb, and veal to a minimum internal temperature of 145° F; raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160° F; and cooking all poultry items to a minimum internal temperature of 165° F.
  • Concerned about your co-worker’s casserole? If it has been sitting out at room temperature for more than two hours, just say no. Which leads us to the next tip …
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. USDA notes that hot foods should be 140° F or warmer. Use chafing dishes or slow cookers to help keep hot foods at safe temperatures. Cold foods should be 40° F or colder. Keep foods cold by placing dishes in bowls of ice or by serving in small batches and replenishing from the refrigerator as needed.

Have a co-worker with a food allergy? Don’t be a Grinch! Be mindful of their needs as you plan your office potluck.

And finally, remember that your employer’s drug and alcohol policy doesn’t take a holiday break.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

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