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The winter holiday season is upon us, bringing with it a surge in demands and heightened activity and requiring a focus on safety by businesses and their workforces. While workplace injuries are a year-round concern, the holiday season brings unique circumstances that require intensified awareness from both employers and workers.

The Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Surveillance (KOSHS) program within the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC) stands at the forefront of efforts to ensure worker safety during the holiday season. Providing resources and strategic insights, KOSHS strives to equip businesses with the tools they need to navigate the challenges that arise

“During the holidays, various factors can increase the risk of injuries on the job, said Rebecca Honaker, MPH, director of KOSHS. “An influx of new workers to meet the extra demands of shoppers and deliveries, increased worker stress and fatigue, and winter weather all bring the potential of additional hazards employers need to prepare for.”

Temporary workers, commonly hired by stores and delivery services during the busy holiday season, are at higher risk of injuries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, over one-third of nonfatal workplace injuries requiring time away from work occur among employees with less than a year of service.

Recognizing the complications facing temporary workers during the holiday season, Honaker recommends that employers ensure that seasonal and temporary workers receive the same rights, clear job assignments, and comprehensive training as their tenured counterparts.

To enhance the safety structure, Honaker encourages employers to familiarize themselves with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Protecting Temporary Workers. This set of best practices includes checklists and insights to help employers create a secure work environment for all employees. “Employees who are well-prepared to recognize and prevent job hazards encourage a work culture that values safety and urges quick reporting of concerns about health or safety,” says Honaker. “Employers also can ease workplace stress by creating a detailed plan that adjusts to the needs of the team.”

For new hires, practical training on using equipment correctly and appropriate protective gear should be provided. Doing this ensures not only the safety of the workforce but also establishes a workplace that prioritizes the well-being of all individuals.

Honaker recommends the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Holiday Workplace Safety webpage as another resource available to employers. Offering essential holiday safety tips tailored for workers in retail, delivery, and order fulfillment, the page also includes general holiday workplace safety advice. Key topics cover crowd management, forklift and warehousing safety, precautions for winter weather hazards, safe driving practices, and strategies to manage workplace stress. It serves as a comprehensive guide to ensure a safe and secure working environment during the festive season.

The KOSHS program is another valuable resource for employers. Collaborating with various entities, KOSHS identifies, intervenes, and evaluates safety and health issues affecting Kentucky workers. The program produces reports, hazard alerts, and training tools that include best practices to promote worker safety. As the winter holiday season unfolds, the KOSHS program is dedicated to promoting a safe and secure working environment during this festive period.

KIPRC is a unique partnership between the DPH and the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health. KIPRC serves both as an academic injury prevention research center and as a bona fide agent of DPH for statewide injury prevention and control.