Managing EHS Risk with Help From Classic Christmas Movies

What 6 Classic Christmas Films Can Teach Us About Managing Holiday EHS Hazards

December 20th, 2018

Snow is falling. Bells are ring-ting-tingling. Merriment is in the air. And the festive season of managing EHS compliance and risks and mitigating hazards has officially arrived.

OK. Sure, EHS is always in season. But the winter and holiday seasons bring new hazards to the workplace. Snow (or rain if you’re lucky enough to be in a more temperate climate) gets tracked in, creating slick and slippery walking surfaces. Festive decorations like string lights and garland present potential fire and tripping hazards. And, in restless anticipation of a needed holiday break, rushing employees may not be too focused on workplace safety.

And as classic Christmas flicks rule the TV airwaves and our subscription platforms, they present some obvious and gentle reminders of how important workplace safety is during the holidays and all year long. After all, no wants to electrocute a coworker (or office cat) after relying on just one electrical outlet to do the job of many. (Nor do we want to see Griswold-style blow-ups.) 

So, grab your popcorn, snuggle in, and let us these Christmas classics show you how you can better manage EHS risk and mitigate hazards this holiday season and beyond.

1. Be cognizant of employees reaching Clark Griswold-levels of stress

Christmas Vacation is one of the most beloved Christmas classics of our time. And our main character Clark Griswold steals the show, dealing with a number of upsets, setbacks, and tensions. But one scene that really stands out is when he receives his much-anticipated Christmas bonus.

Clark has made epic plans to install a backyard swimming pool for his family. That bonus money has already been spent. But as it turns out, his company decided a subscription to the “Jelly of the Month Club” was a more fitting bonus. After months of hard work and days of dealing with in-law and holiday stress, he loses his mind and spirals out of control.

For EHS leaders, Clark’s dismay and subsequent breakdown is a reminder that stress, at both home and work, is a safety risk. And as Clark’s boss found out, employees expect leadership to be understanding and part of the solution.

So, take steps to monitor potential stressful risk points this holiday season and all year long. In addition, engage your leadership to play a role in upholding health and safety culture, and minimizing stress. After all, creating a culture of health and safety at your workplace begins at the top. (More on that below.)

2. Watch out for slips, trips, and falls (and hidden booby traps)

Marv Merchants and Harry Lime are just trying to earn a living. But throughout the 90s classic, Home Alone, their attempt to complete their work in a safe, timely fashion is crushed as they encounter dangerous workplace hazards.

Harry trips on an exposed wire. Marv steps barefoot onto a rusty nail. There’s fire. There’s ice. And despite their best efforts, the duo was doomed to disaster and pain.

Slip, trip, and fall hazards are smart and crafty like Kevin McCallister. They lay in wait ready to strike. But by taking steps to educate employees on the potential risks, and keeping those risks top of mind, you can hopefully empower them to avoid getting knocked in the head with a crowbar.

In addition, take steps to provide ample lighting in the office and clear walkways of clutter, cords, and debris. Though maybe not as well-known or beloved as Home Alone, these humorous EHS slip, trip, and fall videos may give you a little inspiration.

3. Be on the lookout for ways to engage grinchy employees

In The Grinch that Stole Christmas, the poor Grinch feels like he’s suffered a lifetime of mistreatment and misunderstanding. He watches the Whos down in Whoville with judgement and a bad attitude, resistant to visit the town and engage in holidays festivities. That is, until little Cindy Lou Who inspires him to own his feelings and become a bigger part of the community.

Like the Grinch, certain employees can be resistant to EHS, or don’t want to participate in the company’s initiatives at all. According to EHS Today, workers who are committed to their work and the success of the company put in more effort, produce higher quality work, and face fewer workplace accidents.

So, take a page out of Cindy Lou Who’s book and work to warm up the hearts of your employees by engaging them in fun and educational health and safety initiatives. Break out your bamboozlers and whatsits to foster better, smarter employee stakeholder engagement to identify your most disengaged employees and look for opportunities to inspire and include them.

4. Educate employees on what risks they need to keep an “eye out” for

In A Christmas Story, our adorable main character Ralphie spends the holiday season wishing for a Red Ryder BB gun. But his wishes are met with the iconic line: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”

Ralphie is less than pleased with the feedback, but we all know the adults in his life are simply looking out for his safety—which is just what you’re trying to do for your employees, too.

Hopefully, your employees' eyeballs aren’t at risk. But whatever the risks are, employees can’t avoid them if they aren’t aware they exist. Educating your employees on potential risks, as well as showing them how they play a role in ensuring a happy, healthy, and safe environment, is a key function of your role.

Take steps to market EHS in a way they can internalize and is relevant to their role and life. Just as young Ralphie didn’t see a BB gun as a safety threat, your employees may not be able to see what you see.

So, break out your limited-edition Orphan Annie decoder, and find out what really matters to your employees and how they feel about workplace safety. Then tailor your communication strategy to fit their needs. When your employees understand things on their terms, they’ll take a more active role in health and safety, earning themselves an A+++.

5. Remember, the best way to spread EHS cheer is by ensuring it lasts all year

Elf has become a modern classic, showing us that when we all believe in something, magical things can happen. And while Buddy comes across as a bit delusional to begin with, he was able to create a culture of unity, optimism, and fun. And he made people believe in something bigger than themselves.

As it relates to EHS, the success of your initiatives and the well-being of your employees is rooted in building a culture of EHS. Culture sets an organization’s tone and environment. Culture brings comfort and togetherness. But people need an example to follow; they need a leader.

In Elf, Buddy became the Christmas Champion. By asking questions, providing feedback, and rallying people to his cause with positivity, he boosted morale, enlightened nonbelievers, and ultimately helped bah-humbugs get on Santa’s Nice List.

Within your organization, you and your leadership team absolutely need to lead by example. But you should also strive to engage and elevate Buddy-the-Elf-like employees to EHS Champions. This will give all employees the sense that health and safety is a priority from the top-down, and it’s something they can and should be a part of too.

Keep Your Organization Off the Naughty List

If there’s anything these classic Christmas movies have taught us over the years, it’s that EHS risk lurks around every corner. When it comes to keeping your employees safe, engaged, and working as efficiently as possible, there’s always opportunity for growth.

Mitigate stress in the workplace to avoid Griswold-level breakdowns. Be mindful of potential slip, trip, and fall hazards to keep employees safe. Involve your less-than-enthusiastic employees in EHS through communication and education. And finally, remember that in order to mitigate risk and empower employees, they need something to believe in.

Is your organization at risk of being on Santa’s Naughty List? Our EHS consulting firm can help you avoid a lump of coal in your EHS stocking.

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