For Facility Managers the holiday season means office parties and events, and significantly more foot traffic to shopping malls and retail outlets. We don’t want to be alarmist, but all of these activities come with health and safety hazards. So, let’s make these accidents and illnesses “not happen” and be ready with the following preparations:
1. Here come the people!
The holiday season brings an increase in foot traffic, especially at facilities in industries such as retail, healthcare, leisure and entertainment.
Externally: More cars in the parking lot and more people driving around can be hazardous to employees, visitors and customers. This is particularly the case in bad weather or if ice and snow are not well managed. People are also more distracted during the holiday season because of the rush and stress, which increases the chance of accidents.
Keep parking areas and sidewalks clear of ice and snow (if this is an issue in your region), use salt, and make sure you’ve put absorbent mats at entrance ways.
Internally: Like it or not, there is an increase in the spread of germs during cold and flu season. The increase in the number of people within the facility during this time can impact the cleanliness of the facility. Make sure your commercial cleaning company is effectively disinfecting your surfaces. This means extra attention to the following areas:
- Washrooms: in terms of supplies and cleaning
- Reception areas: for additional cleaning, and supplying hand sanitizers and tissues for visitors
- Waste management: with the increase in waste generated, make sure waste containers are not sitting out in the open, which can increase the spread of germs.
- With the increase in people at your facility and the addition of holiday decorations, check to make sure emergency exit signage can clearly be seen, and exits are clear from any clutter.
2. Preparing for winter weather
At any time of the year, the two most common types of accidents are automobile collisions and slip and fall incidents. The rate of both these types of incidents increase from late November through the day after New Year. In many regions in North America there is the added challenge of cold and wet weather in the form of rain, snow and ice.
Make sure you have planned and scheduled for regular exterior maintenance services throughout the holiday season both inside and outside. This is not the time to cut back.
Outside your facility: If you are in a region that experiences cold winters, arrange for immediate snow removal and salt application in parking areas and on walkways. This is the best way to prevent falls, and keep vehicles from getting stuck (which can cause additional safety hazards).
Visibility may be poor due to heavy rain or snow and cause accidents so pedestrians within the parking areas need to be vigilant. Communicate this to employees and visitors through emails, signage, and your building receptionist.
Inside your facility: Slipping hazards for employees, visitors and customers are common this time of year because of wet spots from winter boots and other items carried into your facility.
- Provide extra matting with effective, absorbent materials at entranceways to soak up moisture. A combination of scraping maps (before entering) and wiping mats (after entering), are suggested, particularly if you don’t have space for a large indoor mat.
- Make sure the above mats are changed regularly by your custodial or commercial cleaning service. Use wet floor signs to warn people of the slippery surface and have mops handy to wipe up floors.
- Provide areas for employees and visitors to store wet winter boots when they enter the facility.
- Discuss additional time with your cleaning for additional time to mop and dry wet floors, including where boots and coats are stored.
- You may want to schedule time cleaning for salt and slush stain removal. Hot water extraction is best for both cleaning and prolonging a carpet’s life.
3. Special Events
The holiday season brings an increase in parties and special events both inside and outside your facility. This means holiday decorations and additional health and safety concerns. According the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) 10,800 people a year are taken to hospital for injuries relating to holiday lights and decorations.
Be prepared for potential safety and fire hazards from holiday decorations, including holiday lights that can overload electrical outlets, with the following tips:
- Check electrical extension cords. Often during a holiday “decorating spree”, additional cords are used in a daisy chain effect to reach further, or too many attached to one plug. This puts extra pressure on the electrical system and can be a trip hazard. Watch for cords stretched across open areas or tucked under mats!
- When installing lights, the Canadian Government recommends that you only use holiday lights that have been accredited with a certification agency such as CSA, cUL or cETL. Check the safety of your current lights by looking them up in the Healthy Canadians Recalls and Safety Alerts Database.
- When decorating, follow health and safety procedures for ladders and installation (not the Clark Griswald method from Christmas Vacation!) Overall, falls account for approximately 40 per cent of traumas and injury-related deaths in Canada. These include an increased number during the holidays when installing lights and decorations. Use a CSA standard ladder and follow proper safety procedures.
- Buy flame-resistant decorations and never place open flames or candles near flammable materials, such as wreathes, trees or paper decorations
Additional safety suggestions when planning events:
- Remove any boxes, decorations or general holiday clutter away from emergency exits or fire extinguishers.
- Ensure that all seasonal or temporary employees are fully trained on your safety plans and procedures.
- Special events cause an increase in waste collected. Put plan in place to avoid the health and safety hazard if collected waste is not properly disposed.
Be holiday season ready and contact Kleenway Services for commercial cleaning and exterior maintenance services for your facility.