Holidays And Workplace Safety
By Andrew R. Bronsnick
Safety should always be your number one priority while at work. The Fall and pre-holiday season is particularly dangerous. This is the time of year when companies, schools, and government offices are preparing for holiday parties. Employees like you may be asked to pitch in and help decorate and coordinate in some way. This might include:
- Hanging banners and streamers.
- Preparing and serving food.
- Supplying games, entertainment, and music.
- Shopping for the company or attending events.
There are safety issues employees should consider when assigned festivity-related responsibilities. Even mundane tasks like hanging banners and streamers, setting up speakers or lighting chafing dish heaters can be hazardous without proper equipment, and injuries can lead to workers’ compensation claims.
This is obvious in hindsight, but it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and related workplace accidents can lead to lawsuits and fines. For example, a preschool teacher broke her arm in 2010 while standing on a child’s seat to hang some decorations, and the school incurred a $5,000 penalty for violating OSHA’s safety terms. Hanging decorations should not put any worker in harm’s way or prohibit their ability to do their job.
According to the National Safety Council, work injuries cost $151.1 billion annually in the U.S., and public injuries cost $140.9 billion. This also amounts to hundreds of millions of lost productivity hours. Your employer should not add to these workers’ compensation statistics by asking or compelling you to stand on a flimsy ladder or chair.
If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe during the preparation or breakdown of your employer-sponsored party, let your employer know and offer to assume a responsibility with lower risks.
Fire risks increase during Halloween parties, often due to the combination of candles and the flammability of the decorations and costumes. Your employer should encourage holiday staples like jack-o-lanterns, but suggests using flame-less LED candles that are bright enough to illuminate your carving but don’t pose the risks of a real flame. Due to their flammability, you should avoid the use of:
- Dried flowers or floral arrangements.
- Corn husks or dried corn stalks.
- Crepe paper garland or other paper decorations.
- Homemade paper-towel ghosts.
- Driveway lanterns with real candles.
Excessive drinking at company-sponsored parties can lead to holiday DWI accidents. If a company employee injures another driver or bystander following a company-sponsored party, the employer is typically not liable for the damages. Even though alcohol was provided, under New Jersey Dram Shop Law, it’s unlikely the company or the establishment will be found liable for damages, but the incident can cause problems for everyone.
If you or a loved one has been injured while working in New Jersey, you need an experienced lawyer to communicate with the insurance companies, investigate the cause of the incident, obtain videos and cell phone records, identify witnesses, obtain medical treatment for you, and properly evaluate and present your injuries to ensure you receive maximum compensation.