Santa Claus & Workplace Hazards

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It seems like being Santa Claus is a pretty sweet job. But being Santa turns out to be pretty dangerous these days. It’s true, Virginia – even Santa can be the victim of workplace violence. Guest blogger Robert Smithson takes a look at how hard it is to be Santa.

Being Santa Ain’t All It’s Cracked up to Be

Lots of weird and (occasionally) wonderful things happen in the workplace. Standing in as Santa for a few weeks each December is certainly no exception.

In Vancouver last week, police were called to the Rusty Gull pub after a couple of Santas enjoying some “Christmas spirits” apparently took offence to another patron. The man was apparently seen approaching the two jolly fellows in red inside the bar.

Soon, it’s alleged, one Santa threw a punch and, at that point, police were called in. The two Santas had fled the scene by the time they arrived and police were unable to track them down – it seems that police dogs aren’t much use in tracking down flying sleighs.

In Lubbock, Texas, fire officials said a Texas man who had to be rescued from the chimney of his house after several hours of being stuck claimed he wasn’t trying to be Santa Claus. He was just locked out of his house.

They had to hoist the 22-year-old man by rope from the chimney. The man, apparently wanting to save the price of a locksmith, decided to enter the house through the chimney as his wife and child waited outside. Yeah, sure, like that wasn’t really a trial run for Christmas Eve.

In Chestertown, Maryland, a man in a “Frosty the Snowman” costume was arrested during the annual Christmas parade, accused of scuffling with police and kicking at a police dog. Frosty apparently became agitated when a dog-handling officer tried to escort him away from the crowd.

Frosty told reporters that he’s dressed up for the parade for at least 10 years. He says he did nothing wrong and was wrongfully arrested, claiming officers hassled him after he made a joke about the police dog’s presence at the parade. Brings to mind an old saying about not eating yellow snow.

In England, a young girl shocked her mother by asking Santa Claus for a bunch of presents—including “the real-life Justin Bieber”—and threatening to kill Santa if he refused to deliver.

She also threatened retribution by promising to “hunt down” Santa’s reindeer so she could “cook them and serve their meat to homeless people on Xmas day.” On the positive side, she did say she was “mostly joking” and, clearly, she had the interests of the less fortunate in mind.

Speaking of reindeer, a Florida woman was charged with domestic battery after she used the antlers of a mounted deer head to beat up her ex-boyfriend. She armed herself after the ex-boyfriend tried to force entry to the house.

The fight reportedly began when the ex-boyfriend left the home to call his new girlfriend “which he believes angered” the woman (a good guess, I’d say). She locked him out and, when he tried to climb back in through a window, she reportedly “began striking him in the face and body with the ends of the antlers.”

The boyfriend suffered cuts and swelling in the attack. There was no immediate word on whether a glowing red nose on the mounted deer (the forerunner of the laser sight, perhaps?) aided the woman with her aim.

Past years have been no kinder to Santa and his seasonal buddies. In Wiesbaden, Germany, a department store Santa on his way home for the night was mugged by stressed-out Christmas shoppers. The Santa was still “in character” and chatting to other passengers while waiting for his train home.

Two men, allegedly stressed after a full day’s Christmas shopping, lost their patience when asked to “tell Santa what they want for Christmas.” The men took his sack of gifts and proceeded to beat him over the head with it.

The battered Santa explained, “Around this time of year shoppers seem to get this glint in their eyes and you can just see they are going to go off any minute. I should have known better but come on, who beats up Santa Claus?”

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Santa was being airlifted by helicopter to distribute gifts at a party in the Nova Mare neighbourhood. On the way, the helicopter had the misfortune of passing over the Vila Joao shantytown.

As it flew overhead, drug traffickers below (who apparently controlled the slum) opened fire, causing the helicopter to have to reverse course and head back to base. Santa was not injured but bullet holes were found in the helicopter’s fuselage.

Apparently the snipers believed Santa’s ride was part of a police raid on their turf. Santa eventually made it to the Christmas party, by car.

In Danbury, Connecticut an ersatz Claus got a little more from one of his visitors than he bargained for. A woman was charged by police after allegedly “taking liberties” with the Santa. The assailant was charged with sexual assault and breach of the peace as a result of the groping incident.

Santa, who is 65, was shocked and embarrassed by the special treatment he had received, and felt badly because children were lined up waiting to see him. A “Santa trainer” commented that it is not unusual for women to want to sit on Santa’s lap, but that he’s never previously heard of such an incident.

Finally, although it doesn’t involve a Santa, I have to recount my favourite winter-themed strange tale from the employment world. In Boise, Idaho, two ice rink employees ducked out of work for a midnight food run to the local Burger King drive-thru.

They had to travel about 2.4 kilometres to the restaurant (through at least one intersection with a traffic light), which should have been simple enough. The flaw in their plan was that they chose just about the biggest, slowest vehicles available – two Zamboni ice resurfacing machines – for the trip.

The big machines travel at a top speed of 8 kilometres per hour which, along with the oddity of a Zamboni rumbling along city streets, guaranteed the hungry employees would be spotted. Predictably, after an anonymous witness reported the strange sight, the two were fired from their jobs.

The subsequent police report is rumoured to have indicated that the streets the two Zambonis traveled along were left “ – just as smooth as glass.”

Happy holidays, everyone, Santas too!

Robert Smithson is a labour and employment lawyer, and operates Smithson Employment Law in Kelowna. For more information about his practice, or to subscribe to You Work Here, visit www.smithsonlaw.ca. This subject matter is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

Now if Santa wants some advice on how to protect himself and his elves from workplace violence, he should go to the OHSInsider’s Workplace Violence Compliance Center.