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Festive Indulgence, Prudence, and Abstinence

Date: 25th November 2016

Safety is a conscious effort at the best of times. While engineered controls can protect people from hazards, they seldom can protect people from themselves and safety is inherently about the people.  Approaching the holiday season, it is easy to find people’s minds distracted by the increased demands on themselves.

Over the next few weeks the sprint to 2017 will begin.  Peoples thoughts turn to Christmas parties, and gifts, airports will fill with the hustle and bustle of family and friends flying to spend time with loved ones, and we often try to fit in more than perhaps we normally would, at the expense of our health.  Perhaps we stay out a little later just this one night.  Have an extra drink this one time, feel obligated to have that second helping of dinner, or just a few more chocolates.  It is a time of indulgence in some ways.

Fatigue from an increase in late nights socializing, seasonal impacts such as daylight savings (Barnes and Wagner), decrease in sunlight and a cumulative loss of sleep, increased workloads, and an increase in consumption and use of drugs and alcohol, and you can see a number of factors that can be like adding fuel to a fire when it comes to increasing risk in the workplace.

While having an office worker misplace a file, inadequately proof a document, or forget to send a quote can be serious, consider the impact on industries with higher risk activities.

Pilots flying over the holiday period are subjected to the same social demands, but must be aware of their surroundings at all times, and be in a competent state to respond to potential issues that could put their crew and passengers at risk.

Equally, workers in mining, oil and gas, marine and construction industries are working in high risk environments where despite controls set to protect workers from potentially catastrophic risk levels, worker error can lead to significantly increased risks.

So if additional employee health strains at this time of year can contribute to already existing risk in the workplace, how do you help to prevent adding fuel to the proverbial fire?  Reduce the fuel, the potential causes that may lead to indulgence, and a decrease in safe work awareness.  The following are considerations that may help you manage some of the above seasonal indulgences with the help of a little prudence, and the touch of abstinence:

  • Many benefit packages do not rollover at the end of the year, and include registered massage therapy as a benefit. Encouraging employees to get a therapeutic massage is a great way to use benefits, and reduce stress at this time of year.
  • Try and keep workloads in mind to avoid cramming work into the run up to the holidays
  • Encourage flexi-time in the lead up to the holidays to allow workers to ease into the holidays and get extracurricular activities done, or even just wake up or go home in sunlight!
  • Provide a healthy gift for employees, a yoga class, consultation with a health nutritionist, or dietician to provide incentive to indulge less, and start the new year off on a healthier foot.
  • Discuss entering the team in a team building event like the Tough Mudder or Spartan races to try and maintain a healthy focus over the winter period.
  • Celebrate the holidays with an activity that gets your team active such as curling, indoor climbing or other activities that may shift the focus off alcohol or drugs.
  • Host your Christmas party in November or January. Helps free up time for employees and also maybe save you a bit of money.
  • Encourage a family themed holiday gathering which also can keep indulgences down to a minimum.
  • Hold your Christmas party in the afternoon giving employees a chance to get to bed at a reasonable time.
  • Elimination is the best control, don’t hold a Christmas event, but instead provide your employees with extra time with family and friends, and/or maybe a giftcard or bonus in lieu of the money spent on the traditional Christmas party.

In short, exercising a little prudence can lead to a little indulgence and doesn’t have to mean complete abstinence from some of festive fun on the horizon, or an increase in risk at work. Don’t leave your planning till too late, or you may be adding fuel to your own fire, increasing your own stress and fatigue! Talk to your team, and start planning now, and enjoy the holidays when they arrive.


*Changing to daylight saving time cuts into sleep and increases workplace injuries.
Barnes, Christopher M.; Wagner, David T.
Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 94(5), Sep 2009, 1305-1317.


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