In case you slept through Black Friday, we are here to tell you that the holiday season is officially here. Your employees and students probably have caught the bug already and are ready for a day or two of hibernation with family and friends. Although the holidays can be a time of joy and merriment, they also can present many hazards. It’s always a good time to talk about safety, so read and share these holiday tips:

  1. They probably won’t kill you, but do not eat the poinsettias.
    There is a widely spread myth about poinsettias being poisonous, but it’s simply not true. Basically, no one has died from eating a poinsettia. You probably won’t be snacking on these plants, but make sure to keep your pets away from them (dogs and cats aren’t so good with portion control). Other plants to watch out for:

    • Mistletoe: All parts of the plant contain toxic substances.
    • Holly berries: One or two won’t hurt you, but swallowing more can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea.
    • Jerusalem cherry: Swallowing this ornamental plant can result in vomiting, redness of the skin, drowsiness or restlessness, and hallucinations.
    • Amaryllis: You may get a stomachache if you eat the bulb of this plant.
  2. Like a candle in the wind.
    Increased use of candles, fireplaces, and decorative items definitely heightens the risk of fires this holiday season. Some things to look out for:

    • Candles: Do not use lighted candles near trees, greenery, curtains, or any potentially flammable item. Flameless candles are available that look very similar but don’t present a fire risk. Some are even scented.
    • Trees: When purchasing an artificial tree, look for one that has been tested and labeled as “fire-resistant.” If you purchase one with built-in lights, look for the UL label. If you have a natural tree, make sure to water it well so the branches don’t become dry. This can be a fire hazard from the heat of the lights.
    • Fireplaces: Before lighting a fire in the fireplace, remove all greenery, papers, and other decorations from the area. Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace, as it can cause a flash fire. Also, if you have glass doors on your fireplace, protect your hands when touching them. They can become extremely hot!
  3. Don’t eat yellow snow (or inhale artificial snow).
    When spraying artificial snow on windows or other surfaces, be sure to follow the directions on the can carefully. These products may contain chemicals like solvents, propellants, and flame retardants. You may want to open a window when spraying them indoors: They can irritate your lungs if you inhale them.
  4. It’s electric!
    Though Clark Griswold famously thought there could never be enough Christmas lights, too many strands can actually be cause for concern. Light it up, but take care:

    • Purchasing: When purchasing lights, look for the UL label. Each year, check your strands for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections. Repair or throw away damaged light sets.
    • Extension cords: When placing multiple strands of lights, it’s hard to avoid extension cords. When used safely, they don’t present a problem. But be careful when placing them across walkways. Do not use more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
    • Shock protection: For outdoor decorations, plug them into circuits with CFCIs to avoid potential shocks.
  5. It’s still fall, but don’t fall.
    The holidays usually mean it’s time to pull out the stepstools and ladders to hang the star on top of the Christmas tree, the lights outside, and the mistletoe. It’s a good time to review some ladder safety tips:

    • Use a stepstool, stepladder, or ladder to reach high places. Don’t be tempted to use a chair, desk, or other piece of potentially unstable furniture.
    • When on a ladder near a doorway, make sure the people around you know not to come near the area.
    • It’s always good to have a helper. The person can hold the ladder, assist you with lights or ornaments, and generally give you peace of mind, especially if you are on an extension ladder.
    • A straight or extension ladder should be placed one 1 foot away from the surface it rests against for every 4 feet of ladder height. ™
    • Always face the ladder when climbing, and keep three points of contact (hands and feet) on the ladder at all times.
    • Do not lean too far or overreach; reposition the ladder often even though it means climbing up and down frequently. ™
    • When using ladders outdoors, watch out for bad weather. Wind, rain, and slippery surfaces are bad news for people on ladders.
    • Consider your footwear. Don’t climb a ladder barefoot, and make sure your shoes have slip resistance.
  6. Your locks are frozen … and you are out of deicer.
    In most places across the country, when winter comes, ice and snow come with it. These elements make timely car maintenance even more important. If you haven’t already, it’s time to encourage your customers to prepare their cars for winter.It’s also a good idea for everyone to have a winter “survival kit” in their vehicles for emergencies. Some suggested items:

    • A flashlight and batteries
    • Reflective triangles
    • Compass
    • First aid kit
    • Exterior windshield cleaner
    • Ice scraper
    • Snow brush and small shovel
    • Wooden stick matches in a waterproof container
    • Non-perishable, high-energy foods such as peanuts, dried fruit, and hard candy