Have you considered the potential risks the festive period presents? There are many hidden risks that come with the summer season. This blog presents twelve safety hazards and/or considerations for you to be cautious about over the summer months, and our top tips for managing these risks. To ensure you have a safe and healthy Christmas!
1. Lone or isolated workers
Did you know that a worker may be isolated even if other people are close by?
Lone or isolated workers may include situations such as:
- service station attendants in all night convenience stores;
- sales representatives, including real estate agents visiting homes;
- nurses conducting clinical visits on a ward;long distance freight transport drivers away from the depot;
- agricultural workers, scientists, park rangers and others carrying out field work alone; and
- health and community workers working with members of the public but isolated from their colleagues.
How can you keep lone/isolated workers safe? Here are some tips:
By providing an effective means of communication for lone or isolated workers, they will be able to access assistance from emergency services should the need arise.
Also ensuring safe work practices that are relevant to lone/isolated workers exist, will provide guidance for employees and create a safer environment.
We recommend a risk assessment of your business as an integral part of managing lone/isolated worker risks.
2. Christmas Party Safety
The “Silly season” reference is used commonly around this time of year and this can be visible at times at the company Christmas party. By all means, everyone should let their hair down a bit and have some fun, but as the work Christmas Party is a work function, there are also employer obligations to consider.
Here are a few tips for planning and hosting a work Christmas party:
- consider the safety of your team on their commute to and from the function. If alcohol will be served, ensure there is suitable and safe transport accessible for your team to get home safely.
- drink responsibly. It’s always a good idea to ensure at least one member of your leadership is not drinking in case an emergency arises.
- sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct are no more acceptable at the Christmas party than they are in the workplace. Having too much to drink is never an excuse for inappropriate behaviour, and expectations about behaviour should be set for all employees prior to the function.
3. Complacency as a killer
Complacency in the workplace is a dangerous situation for you or your employees to find themselves in. When employees become accustomed to doing things a certain way, they can easily become oblivious to their surroundings and forget about hazards and risks. This is why an ongoing system of safety management is so important.
Success is also a contributing factor to complacency. When it all feels like it’s going well, it really is the time to reassess – it could be a matter of life or death!
- What could go wrong?
- What is the worst-case scenario?
- Am I doing all that I can do to protect myself and/or my workers?
Don’t be blinded by your success and reason that because nothing has gone wrong nothing ever will. The view that “we have been doing it this way for years and we haven’t had any incidents” will inevitably lead to a failure sometime down the track.
A great place to start is a safety assessment of your workplace.
4. Sun Safety
Australians love the outdoors, and luckily on the Gold Coast we have plenty to enjoy – but ensuring we are all sun safe will help protect us from the risks associated with UV exposure.
Melanoma is the 3rd highest cancer diagnosed in Australia, following breast cancer at number 2, and prostate cancer at number 1. The Cancer Council of Australia estimates that this year, 18,200 people were diagnosed with melanoma of the skin and it is estimated that one in 17 people will be diagnosed by the time they are 85.
Here are a few ways to reduce your worker’s exposure –
- Ensure long sleeve shirts are worn when working outside (UV resistant)
- Use and provide sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher)
- Provide a hat (wide brim preferably)
- Seek/provide shade where possible
- Provide and wear sunglasses
- Adjust work hours and exposure to outside of peak at-risk times if possible
- Encourage your workers to get regular skin checks
- Educate your workers on sun safety
All employers should include exposure to UV in the risk profile and review it regularly!
5. Sedentary Lifestyle
Living a sedentary lifestyle is downright unhealthy, and the risk compounds for workers who have jobs where sitting all day is the norm. People who live a sedentary lifestyle have a higher chance of being overweight, developing type 2 diabetes or heart disease and of experiencing depression and anxiety.
Did you know that by encouraging and supporting your workers to be more healthy, amazing things can happen? Your workers:
- will be more positive and feel better about themselves which will lead to a better workplace culture and less turnover;
- will perform better. There is a direct correlation between exercise/well-being and better performance; and
- will be injured and unwell less and this will result in fewer sick days and fewer worker’s compensation claims.
Below are some minor adjustments that will enable you and your workers to be less sedentary:
- Encourage walking or cycling to work and provide facilities that support it such as
showers and bike racks;
- Allow workers to use the stairs instead of the lifts if regulations allow;
- Invest in adjustable desks to transition from sitting to standing more regularly;
- Set office alarms to remind workers to move and stretch at periodic intervals;
- Encourage workers to eat away from their desks;
- Provide flexible work opportunities which enable employees to get out, exercise and live their best lives.
6. Work Vehicle Safety
Many employees are required to drive as part of their jobs. Yet, many businesses don’t carefully consider the risks that motor vehicles pose on a day to day basis even though it’s common knowledge that driving can result in serious injury and death.
During the 2021-22 Christmas/New Year period, there were 27 lives lost and 990 hospitalisations from road crashes in 11 days across Australia (Queensland Government).
Please take care this holiday season on the roads and ensure that you or your loved ones do not contribute to statistics for the 2022/23 holiday season. Here are some tips to help prepare, to ensure you have a safe and healthy Christmas:
- Have your vehicle serviced, and ensure the vehicle is in a safe condition to drive.
- Be realistic with your journey times. You will be sharing the roads with lots of people on the move doing exactly the same as you.
- Be alert and maintain situational awareness.
- Plan rest stops.
- Drive to the conditions.
- Double-check loads. Not just for your safety but for others using the roads.
- Minimise distractions in the car.
- Do not drink and drive.
- Prepare yourself. Do not drive fatigued. Rotate drivers if possible.
7. Fatigue-related risks
Fatigue is more than simply feeling tired and/or drowsy. In a work context, fatigue is mental and/or physical exhaustion that reduces the ability to perform work safely and effectively.
Get familiar with the signs of fatigue. They may include:
- tiredness even after sleep
- reduced hand-eye coordination or slow reflexes
- short term memory problems and an inability to concentrate
- blurred vision or impaired visual perception
- a need for extended sleep during days off work.
Fatigue can be caused by numerous factors and can be attributed both equally by work related events as well as personal events. There is an obligation for an employer to ensure that they are managing the effects of fatigue in the workplace.
Ensuring that fatigue is identified in your risk assessment is the first step to addressing fatigue properly.
The good news is that it’s not entirely on you as the employer. Employees also have a duty of care. They have a responsibility to present to work in a fit condition and free from the effects of fatigue. As such employees should do all that they can in their personal lives to manage fatigue effectively so as not to impact their work.
8. Sleep health
Sleep is an integral component of human health, and sleep loss can adversely affect the way we function in our everyday lives. Sleep expert Matthew Walker underscores the importance of sleep with these essential tips for improving night time sleep quality.
- find a consistent routine/sleep schedule
- cut the late-night cardio
- reduce caffeine and nicotine consumption
- reduce alcohol consumption
- eat light at night
- leave time to unwind before bed
- baths are best
- check your devices at the bedroom door
- get a little bit of sun each day
- avoid lying in bed too long if not tired
Sleep is important because it can help us physically heal, recover from illness, deal with stress, solve problems, consolidate memories, and it improves motor skills. A good night’s sleep isn’t just about how many hours of sleep you get, but also the quality of that sleep.
So, if you want to avoid becoming the Christmas Grinch this year make sure that you rest and get the sleep proportionate to your needs. Every individual is different and requires different lengths of sleep though it is recommended that the average adult requires 7 or more hours per night.
9. Heat stress safety
One of the prominent risks associated with working in Australia is the heat experienced during our intense summers. A large percentage of the Australian workforce will find themselves exposed to heat at some stage whilst at work.
Working in the heat is not simply referring to those persons working in the direct sunlight. Factors to be taken into consideration when dealing with heat include:
- artificial sources of heat
- lack of ventilation
- the level of physical exertion required
- time taken to complete the task
- physical fitness of employees
- age of the workers
- potential for workers to be on medication (prescription or not).
A first aid refresher may also be required. Understanding the treatments for the different stages or symptoms could save someone’s life. Heat-related illness is a progressive condition that when left untreated it can be fatal.
Guidance material from Safe Work Australia is a great place to start if you are seeking to review your systems and control measures before the heat of summer arrives.
10. Mental health safety
It’s more important than ever to check in to make sure your loved ones are ok over the festive season.
For some people this time of year can bring up deep sadness and loneliness. Be mindful of family, friends and colleagues who may be experiencing loneliness due to isolation, those who have experienced tragedies at this time of year, or those managing ongoing mental health issues.
Ensure that mental health is addressed in your workplace at this time of year. RUOK? offers some excellent resources about how to check in over the festive period to ensure everyone has a safe and healthy Christmas.
Have you considered the security of your establishment over the holiday season?
The holiday season is a time that observes an increase in break and enters for both residential and commercial properties.
Some key points to consider when assessing or preparing to have an extended period away:
- a robust security system may prevent any loss associated with such activities.
- review your locks.
- review the potential for security cameras (motion sensors and monitored).
- review your insurance policies.
- eliminate obvious signs of your absence (e.g. an overflowing mailbox)
12. Electrical Safety
Do you have a Christmas tree or festive lighting in your office space or at home?
The festive season is an exciting time for Queenslanders to decorate their homes and workplaces in celebration of the end of the year. However, this time of year presents threats of heat and storm season. Electrical risks should be identified and monitored to ensure the safety of your home and business during Christmas.
If you are closing down the workplace for the festive period or leaving your home for a prolonged period of time, all electrical devices should be switched off at the wall.
Always remember to follow the manufacturer guidelines on electrical products, including, recommended wattage, running time and conditions for the item to be used in.
If you need safety support in the new year to manage summer safety risks, Big Yellow Safety has the Gold Coast WHS Consultant to assist. Contact us on 07 5655 4048. Servicing the Gold Coast, Northern Rivers and Regional areas.
Have a safe and healthy Christmas!
From the Big Yellow Safety team.