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North Pole Toy Workshop Exposes Workers to 19 Hazards

By Graphic Products Editorial Staff

Santa Claus in chimney safely

Santa Claus' "Santa's Toy Workshop" has recently been deemed to fall under the jurisdiction of OSHA due to a mailing address in North Pole, Alaska.

In December an inspection of the toy workshop took place, as well as an assessment of some toy deliveries made within the United States. Santa Claus and the Toy Workshop were cited for 19 safety and health violations; fines total $349,100.

Toys cluttered the floor around work areas and were slip-and-fall hazards. Workers were riding conveyors, risking death or serious injury. Some workers operated power tools on toys and were not wearing appropriate PPE eyewear.

Workers were required to wear cloth shoes as part of their uniform. The shoes did not serve as protective footwear; the shoes also had extended cloth and bells in the front which presented trip hazards. The attached bells were jingling, ring-ting-tingling too, and elves were not equipped with appropriate hearing protection. Santa's explanation that "their ears are shaped all weird" was entered into the log book but will need to be registered through official channels as a potential reason for exemption, which was noted on the report.

Some workers were exposed to dust particles while mining coal for naughty children. OSHA cited the employer for failure to provide a respiratory program that included medical evaluations and respirator fit testing. Various workers had only unguarded candles to light their work area, which was cited as both insufficient lighting and a fire hazard. Also, fire extinguishers were not provided.

The main workshop area contained a struck-by hazard in the form of a large countdown clock with a sweep hand that was not labeled as a hazard and an additional struck-by hazard in the form of Santa's belly, which jiggled like a bowlful of hazardous jelly. Floor tape was recommended to warn workers who entered the affected areas.

Santa's workshop failed to ensure the workers were protected against contact with toy-making machinery's rotating parts, chains and sprockets. Machines undergoing maintenance had not been properly guarded and locked out. Additionally, elves were inadequately trained on these machine guarding and lockout/tagout procedures.

There were various electrical violations. Circuits were in many cases overloaded with Christmas lights and electronic Christmas decorations.

"Santa needs to deck the halls with signs and labels," said regional OSHA director Chris Muss. "Fa la la la la, la la la la." Added the inspecting agent, "Hark the OSHA agents sing. We're adding Claus to our naughty list."

Inspection of Santa's Deliveries

The sleigh was inspected and found to have no clear safety devices in place. Santa's claim of "magical protection" is not an OSHA-approved safeguarding device. Though Santa additionally claimed that the "light from the snow" had always been sufficient runway lighting, OSHA standards deemed this a violation. Also, sleigh lighting was restricted to one single red bulb worn by a reindeer as a nose, which is insufficient.

In some instances the distance from chimney to floor exceeded 20' and Santa was not outfitted with appropriate fall protection. Most chimney sites visited qualified as confined spaces and no attendant was stationed outside as mandated. Despite Santa's insistence that the reindeer help out when he gets stuck, OSHA standards mandate a human attendant. Confined space permit requirements were also not met and in most cases it appears that Santa's entry was forced, which may be a matter for local police.

Santa also wore wet boots into houses and did not cordon off wet areas nor label them as wet floor hazards, which is a slip-and-fall violation.

Santa Claus and his workshop have been entered into the Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Santa has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings.

A report was also made to the US Bureau of Labor which inspected the worksite and found various violations. Pre-Christmas shifts exceeded maximum allowable hours. Despite traveling through time and appearing to finish everything in under an hour, Santa's Christmas shift was in fact 24 hours in length. It also appeared as if many child laborers were working long shifts, although Santa contested that these were just elves and not actually children. That potential violation is still under review.

The 'Magic of Christmas' Claus

UPDATE: Santa challenged the citation with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Santa proved his magic to the commission by producing pumpkin pie and hot cocoa for the committee members, followed by twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, and more. Whether caused by seasonal euphoria induced by the sugary treats, the golden rings distributed to the panel members or a want for Santa to continue his annual mission, all citations were dismissed. Santa agreed to change his street address to outside of OSHA jurisdiction, so no further inspections shall occur.