Michael Henry

The December holiday season is a time of celebration with family and friends, featuring back-to-back festive events, special meals and other cherished social traditions. This year, as many families and groups cautiously plan for a return to in-person celebrations, now is a good time to take note of many hidden hazards that can pose a risk to your health. Here are some things to consider to ensure that you will get through the holiday season in one piece and start the New Year off on the right foot.

Food poisoning

Eating foods prepared by others, whether cooked in a domestic kitchen or ordered from a restaurant, can lead to food poisoning. This is particularly true during the Christmas holidays when there are many potluck meals and food is being transported. If food is not transported under proper conditions or is left out for too long, bacteria can grow. If a particular food item doesn’t look or smell right, trust your judgement and don’t serve or consume it. Leftovers should always be put away within two hours of their presentation.


Choking is a serious health hazard. During the holidays people tend to eat more, often conversing at the same time. Take small bites and chew carefully to avoid choking. Be aware of high risk foods like hot dogs, grapes and hard foods. Everyone should be familiar with choking rescue techniques which can easily be accessed online.

Allergic Reactions

Foods are often prepared without regard for allergies. While a label may say the food does not contain nuts, a food item (especially if it is homemade) may have been prepared around nuts, or nuts may have been present previously and could still be present if the work surface was not cleaned properly. Should you have allergies, always make the cook aware and be prepared with your EpiPen® in case an allergic reaction does occur.

Cooking Accidents

While many individuals cook their turkey in the oven, deep frying a turkey has become very popular. At one point, turkey fryers were considered so dangerous that the Underwriters Laboratory refused to certify them. While some newer model fryers have been certified in Canada, there are still numerous cautionary tales in media reports. Should you insist on deep-frying your turkey, you must follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Keep all children and pets away. Be prepared for a flash fire and keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

Joint Pain, Heart Attacks & Slip and Fall Accidents

Many holiday activities such as pulling decorations from storage or taking parcels to the post office can put strain on back muscles and other joints. Always be mindful to bend at the knees while lifting or carrying heavy objects.

All of the extra work and running around over the holidays can be stressful. Ask for help or take a break. The holidays are a prime time for heart attacks. There are lots of reasons for this including higher stress levels, eating heavy meals, and shoveling snow. Be very aware of chest pain. Should you have any pain, do not fear ruining the party – take a low dose aspirin if available and call an ambulance immediately.

While there is always the chance of having a green Christmas, most regions of Ontario will experience typical winter weather conditions during the month of December. Watch for snow or slush, especially on walkways. Be careful while walking and wear appropriate footwear.

When walking into malls, restaurants, or other indoor spaces, be careful with wet spots on tiles and un-carpeted floors, which could be a slip and fall hazard. Many commercial managers place mats near entryways, but be careful as some mats can become folded or flipped up, or they may slide when stepped on. Entryways often collect meltwater from the boots and clothes of people entering from outside conditions, but wet spots could occur anywhere. While most businesses try to mop up after customers as much as possible, it is your responsibility to also be careful. For further information, read Safety Tips for Winter Walking.

Christmas Tree Fires

Christmas trees are an important part of the holidays, especially live cut trees. Live cut trees must be placed in water and the water level should be checked regularly. Never place burning candles on or near any tree. Christmas lights should be checked for missing bulbs and if there are any missing, then those lights should be discarded. The safest tree is a flame resistant artificial one, but even then basic fire safety should be heeded.

Ornaments and Interior Decorations

Christmas tree ornaments are dangerous in that they pose a choking hazard and glass ones are easily broken. Pine cones are also a choking hazard. Mistletoe and Poinsettia are toxic and should also be kept away from children or pets.


One point of danger that people often overlook is the actual opening of gifts. Often individuals use scissors or knives to slice open packaging. Many injuries occur due to cutting or stabbing, so be sure to use extra caution when using anything sharp to open gifts. Parents should check all toys to make sure they are safety-approved and age-appropriate.

Exterior Decorating and Ladder Safety

Many homes are decorated on the exterior for the holidays. Injuries often occur due to the mis-use of ladders. Always ensure that your ladder is secure at ground level. A ladder should be placed one foot away from a wall for every four feet it reaches up. There should always be someone holding the bottom of the ladder. Tie the ladder down at the roof and the top two rungs should pass the roofline. When climbing or descending a ladder, stay centered between the rails. Be mindful that the roof itself can be slippery.

Outdoor Activities

The holidays often involve outdoor activities, such as tobogganing and ice skating. All equipment should be in good condition. When tobogganing use areas free of trees, rocks, fences and other obstacles. Obviously your path should not cross a roadway. Proper gloves and outdoor clothes should be worn. As personal injury lawyers, we always recommend that helmets be worn when skiing, skating or tobogganing. Never skate on a frozen lake or pond unless it is being supervised and even in those cases, one should be extra vigilant for cracked or thin ice. For further information on outdoor hazards, read Personal Injury and Death at Government Attractions.

Car Accidents

While many families stayed home last December, we expect to see an increase in the number of families taking to the road during the festive season this year. If you are driving for any reason, always wear your seatbelt and ensure that children are riding in properly installed car seats. While there may be fewer cars on the road than in years past, some people feel the urge to drive faster (or don’t notice their speed). Maintain a safe distance between vehicles and always drive at a speed that allows you to see upcoming hazards and react appropriately. Keep your eyes on the road and if you are tired let someone else drive or stay overnight, especially in snowy or icy conditions. For further information, read Common Causes of Car Accidents in Ontario.

Drinking & Driving

Although some festive social events will still be hosted online this year, the risk of meeting a drunk driver on the road is still a real one. If you will be imbibing, always plan to use public transit or a taxi or another safe method to return home. If you must be on the roads, be very cautious and mindful of other drivers, especially if you see them driving erratically.

The holidays should be very memorable and a happy time for your family. Avoid the hidden perils of the season by putting safety first and foremost – this way you can prevent an accident that might mar the occasion and ensure that your holidays remain full of loving memories.

Happy Holidays.

Accidents can occur at any time. If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident or any incident, please contact us about the claims you may be able to make. Please contact Michael Henry at 416-361-0889 or by e-mail: mjhenry@hshlawyers.com.

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Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP – Personal Injury Law – Top 10 Personal Injury Boutique 2021

Among the best in Canada

Since 2011, our peers have consistently voted for us as one of Canada’s top personal injury firms in Canadian Lawyer  magazine’s annual rankings of the top personal injury boutiques in Canada. With decades of experience helping accident victims and their families, our firm understands the laws that affect your right to compensation because we’ve helped shape those laws in favour of accident victims.

Among the best in Canada

Since 2011 Canadian Lawyer Magazine rated us one of the top personal injury law firms in Canada. Why? With close to 20 years helping accident victims and their families, our firm understands the laws that affect your rights to compensation because we’ve helped shape those laws in favour of accident victims.

Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP – Personal Injury Law – Top 10 Personal Injury Boutique 2021