Continuing our discussion around the various sources of risks for health and safety around the holidays, let's look at a few more such hazards in order to determine how to minimize the dangers that they present.
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire – well, sort of. Unless your chestnuts have gone bad, then the real danger here is the idea of live and open flames in the house. If you have a fireplace, be sure that you are using it properly: don't use it if it has not been cleaned regularly and checked for obstructions, as the smoke that would ensue from improper ventilation could be very harmful. Additionally, be careful about what you use as kindling. The fireplace may seem like a good place to throw out leftover gift wrapping, but that's a dangerous practice: it can cause the fire to spread quickly beyond the fireplace, and depending on what it's made of, it can give off toxic fumes. Stick to split hardwood instead. If you're going to light candles, be mindful of where you place them. Since your home will generally have more “stuff” around it during the holidays, ensure that you don't place a candle near objects that may catch fire. Also, keep them out of reach of children and pets, and never leave them unattended.
Alcohol – certainly eat, drink, and be merry, but you're certain not to spoil your merriment if you are careful about the presence and consumption of alcohol around your home. Ensure that alcoholic beverages are out of the reach of children in a location that is secure and/or very hard for them to access. This is important because it doesn't take a great quantity of alcohol to bring upon alcohol poisoning in children. Pets are also at risk of alcohol poisoning, so it is imperative that such beverages are not within their ability to access at all. In addition to protecting those susceptible from alcohol poisoning, it's important to ensure that those consuming alcoholic beverages don't make hazards of themselves. Know your limits, and try not to exceed them. That said, you should be mindful of the fact that certain variables (such as fatigue, changes in altitude, etc.) might increase your sensitivity to alcohol, so despite your best intentions, you may find that you've still gone too far. In this case, be prepared with alternative means of transportation (or accommodation until you are fit to drive again).
Snow – as much of an inconvenience as it is, it's important to allot enough time for the safe and proper removal of snow. Failure to do so may put you in a situation where you don't clean your vehicle before heading to your destination because you are rushing. This is dangerous because of the reduced visibility it gives you, but also because of the risk your vehicle now poses to others on the road. You could be held liable for snow or ice that falls from your car and causes harm to another...so in short, if you want to avoid increased insurance rates, clean your car. In addition to cleaning your vehicle, you will also need to ensure that your property is properly shoveled: all walkways, driveways, and sidewalks must be cleared. Not only does it become a liability issue if somebody else should sustain an injury on your property owing to improper cleaning, but in cities like Calgary, the municipality will frequently fine you if they have found occasion to pick up your slack. You can avoid this by staying on top of your snow duties. That said, with the amount of snow removal that you have to do, it's important that you don't let it become a source of injury to yourself. The physical exertion required to deal with heavy snowfall affects all people of all ages, and of all degrees of health. To reduce the risks of heart attack, pulled muscles, and respiratory illness, take frequent breaks, allowing your body to rest and to warm. This is where giving yourself adequate time is key.