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Keven Moore: Santa Claus better watch out — because safety risks abound


Like most of you, when I think of the Christmas season the first thing that comes to mind is the jolly old bearded man we know as Santa Claus. But as a safety and risk control consultant working in the insurance industry, I probably think of Santa in a slightly different way from the rest of you. You see, I think of Santa as one giant risk exposure!

Santa Claus runs one heck of an operation, employing thousands of elves that help keep his production line running 24/7. He also runs one of the largest warehouses in the entire world, and his distribution system puts UPS and FedEx to shame on even their best days. But when it comes to insurability, Santa’s empire has to be one giant nightmare for his insurance agent.

For starters, Santa’s famous workshop is located in ISO 10 classification, which for you non-insurance professionals reveals that there isn’t a fire department in his jurisdiction to respond to fires quickly.  So because of the high-risk market pricing, Santa has to be self-insured. And, as a result, Santa will eventually have to rebuild his facilities to be fireproof and meet all safety requirements. He will also need to have a fully trained elf fire brigade that remains on standby to help mitigate this risk exposure.

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As a well-trained safety auditor who has watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at least 50 times, I must admit I was deeply disturbed watching all those sleep-deprived elves working near unguarded nip-and-pinch points on antiquated machinery. Despite living in the 21st century, not one elf was working with the proper eyewear and earplugs despite all that machining, soldering, drilling, hammering and sawing that was going on.

I now realize why Santa located his workshop in such a desolated location as the North Pole. This allows his workshop to remain exempt from all U.S. labor regulations. Santa is a pretty savvy and shrewd CEO, all right. Think about it: Where else is he going to be allowed to work so many vertically challenged people for 18-plus hours a day, assembling all those toys and gifts? I did hear, however, that Santa recently hired his nephew, a graduate from Eastern Kentucky University’s Safety, Security and Emergency Management Master’s Program, to help implement a proactive safety and risk management plan to protect his helpers and contribute to the bottom line.

Considering the size of Santa’s workforce, he is very likely to experience his fair share of discrimination, harassment and other liability claims. As rumor has it, it was rather difficult to find affordable Employment Practices Liability coverage after the well-documented case of the reindeer fleet’s discrimination against Rudolph, which was based on a certain “birth abnormality,” though it was later settled out of court with a concluding promotion.

From a liability standpoint, finding an underwriter to insure Santa’s exposure is always challenging because of a well-known song played on all the local radio stations every December, reminding us of the time Santa ran over a grandmother.  But any good insurance agent could still spin this correctly, as I would counter by bringing up his low frequency rate, as I suspect it has to be extremely low when you factor in the number of deliveries and flight miles he covers every year.  

Nevertheless, I’ve heard that his insurance agent secured a $20 million policy with an umbrella excess policy of another $30 million for his general liability coverage and product liability coverage. This is obviously a necessity to help protect Santa and his operations from frivolous lawsuits and insurance claims; after all, Santa is still a target for hundreds of lawsuits from all those on the naughty list.

Now some of these claims are legitimate, but most are frivolous in nature, such as the lawsuit that occurred a few years ago after visiting a mall in California. This case involved an incident where a young child walking through the mall and holding his mother’s hand was staring over at Santa Claus and walked right into a piece of mall furniture, breaking a tooth and having to go to the emergency room. One would think that the mother would not want her child to get placed on the naughty list by suing, but she still insisted on filing a claim against Santa Claus for being an “Attractive Nuisance.” Luckily, Santa’s attorney was able to get the case thrown out of court.

As for me, I still give Santa a pass after considering that his job is probably one of the most dangerous. As a true CEO of his operation who leads by example, he never complains and never asks his elves to do anything he wouldn’t do when spreading the Christmas joy. The fact that he is still alive after all these years of service is simply a Christmas miracle in itself.

Therefore, I have suggested the following loss control recommendations to better protect Santa as he’s out doing his job, with hopes that he just may reward me with a Harley Davidson this Christmas:

Workplace violence – I have recommended that Santa kiss only Mrs. Claus under the mistletoe this year, to avoid getting caught kissing mommy by the Christmas tree.

Traveling in hazardous conditions – To Rudolph’s displeasure, I suggest that Santa purchase a special “talking” GPS weather alert system to help him safely navigate through bad weather.

Slips and falls – When you consider that the average one-story house is approximately 16 feet tall and a two-story home is 25 feet tall, Santa is exposed to some pretty dangerous heights. So I suggest that Santa purchase some slip-resistant shoes and a Personal Fall Arrest System to avoid falling from those dangerous heights.

Flu and communicable diseases – Have you ever wondered why the flu travels from continent to continent during the months of November and December? I have suggested that Santa get booster shots and an annual flu shot.

Fire Hazards – With the help of the National Fire Protection Association, I have finally found Santa a fireproof suit to better protect him during his descent down into active chimneys.

Dog bites – To avoid dog bites in the middle of the night, I have suggested that Santa begin to carry plenty of pepper spray and to dog-proof his suit by increasing the padding in his pants legs and sleeves.

Overhead electrical lines – I suggest that Santa employ the use of special night vision goggles to assist him in avoiding overhead electrical hazards when he’s making deliveries.

Head and face protection – To better protect Santa from swallowing poisonous bugs in the Amazon region and striking low flying birds in his open-cockpit sleigh, he should wear a safety helmet.

Outriggers and brakes – Santa should install an emergency brake and outriggers on both sides of his sleigh to better protect the stability of the sleigh while it remains parked on steep roofs.

Carbon monoxide – Implement the use of a respirator and CO2 monitor to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, but remember to remove it when entering the house so as to not scare a child.

Be safe, my friends.

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Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.


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