Special Topics in Safety Management

The 2020 Holiday Season Presents Both New and Familiar Hazards

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and health and safety are at top of mind now more than ever. To say that 2020 has been an unusual year is the understatement of…well, the year, and there are some new hazards joining the more common ones that face us every holiday season.

Thanksgiving holiday safety

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Environment, health, and safety (EHS) professionals know that safety doesn’t start and stop at the door to the shop floor—fill workers in on these hazards so that they may bring a safety mindset home with them for the holidays.


No other health hazard has more defined the year 2020 than the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Confirmed cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all currently on the rise, and while large family gatherings have been the norm in years past, encourage your employees to stay as safe as possible and follow all protocols to contain the spread of the virus. A quieter, smaller celebration this year will ensure our health and safety for future holiday seasons.

Fire Hazards

In 2018, the U.S. Fire Administration estimated that approximately half of all residential fires were cooking-related—the most common cause of fire by far. With perhaps even more families staying home to cook this year, it’s especially important to be aware of fire hazards.

If you’re frying a turkey this year, do it outdoors in an open area away from your home and don’t drop a frozen turkey into hot oil—excess water can cause oil to bubble over and ignite on the ground. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, and if you plan to build a fire, ensure your fireplace and chimney have been appropriately inspected and cleaned.

Highway Hazards

The National Safety Council estimates that 485 people may be killed on U.S. roads this Thanksgiving. Encourage workers to stay safe by:

  • Avoiding travel on high traffic days or altogether, if possible.
  • Always wearing a seat belt.
  • Never, ever driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Inclement weather also has the potential to create treacherous road conditions; snow has already fallen in several regions around the country, and, technically speaking, hurricane season doesn’t end until November 30. Take appropriate precautions and drive defensively.

Don’t Gamble with Leftovers

Many consider leftovers to be the best part of Thanksgiving dinner, but they can be a hazard if not handled properly. Basically, when it comes to leftovers, you got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. You should discard leftovers when:

  • It hasn’t been cooled or heated to the appropriate temperature within the time required for food safety.
  • It smells or looks unsafe—if you suspect bacteria or mold has invaded the food, don’t shrug and eat it anyway.
  • There is a possibility the food was contaminated by a sick person through contact with hands, sneezing, coughing, or other routes.

While these tips may seem obvious, a little reminder doesn’t hurt—food poisoning, however, certainly will.

Careful with the Lights …

In many households, the end of Thanksgiving means it’s time to start decorating for the rest of the holiday season. But this can also present some hazards—especially if hanging decorative lights is involved. Encourage everyone to be mindful of electrical, fire, and ladder safety in order to prevent injury.

Safety Begins at Home

The holidays are a great time for employees to decompress away from work and enjoy the company of their families, but safety shouldn’t become an afterthought once they clock out. Share these tips with your workers to help ensure they have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving and an injury-free 2020 holiday season.

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