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Christmas Safety Is Not Just About Slips On Ice

Winter weather is quite rightly a concern this time of year, especially with this year's snow and ice and the lack of responsibility being shown by local authorities, shopping centres and employers who have all shown complacency once again for winter weather precautions.

Numerous stories are in the news media of injuries caused by slips and falls on ice, road and rail safety problems and chaos at the airports. But we must not forget that even without the weather problems, the Christmas and New Year celebrations can be hazardous for us all, both at home and in the general community.

With the issuing last week of Dave Joyce's letter to CWU Branches (LTB1076/10) in which he highlighted serious injuries sustained by thousands each year during the festive season, the Co-ord's Web Editor, Chris Ingram was reminded of his experience last year witnessing the long line of people being admitted to his local hospital's A&E Dept.

Chris told Unionsafety:

"Dave's LTB1076/10 about What Can go Wrong at Christmas, reminded me of the worrying New Years Eve I spent at the Royal Liverpool Hospital A&E Dept last year, when my father in law was taken ill with pneumonia. Luckily he fully recovered.

Whilst I sat in the waiting room as he was being treated for over 2 hours, the scenes I saw in the A&E were quite horrific.

Most of the patients were women, mostly under the influence to say the least. Many had leg and ankle injuries and when looking at their shoes there was no wonder. Several had been involved in fights, and one poor woman had quite clearly been sexually assaulted.

She had little dignity left and was not being treated very sympathetically by the police accompanying her or the nurse dealing with her. No one seated in the A&E was under any illusions as to what had happened to her. Her physical injuries and demeanor and lack of clothing were too apparent.

The women there were all of various ages and so were the men being treated for bruises, breaks, bloody noses and swollen eyes.

Most of the injuries amongst the men were clearly alcohol related.

Sadly, it was like a scene from a zombie movie, with people milling around, disheveled and dazed."

Chris concluded:

"The point I am making, rather badly, is that safety during the festive season does not just concern kitchen injuries and the usual slippage on ice etc, but also the risks facing many men and women who venture out to celebrate.

The risk of both violence and sexual violence is greater during this time of year with men at greater risk of being involved in physical violence whilst women face that plus the risk of sexual assault. We are also seeing an increase in sexual assault on men each festive season."

Unionsafety provides general advice from specialist sources such as the Police and Women and Men's Safety groups below under the following headings:

when out celebrating - on being safe on the street - when using cashpoints - when going home

Worst case scenario - you suspect a date-rape drug has been added to your drink or a friend's

You can click on the link above to go straight to the topic or simply read the headings below as you come to them:

Advice when out celebrating

* Stay with your friends - don't go to the toilet, the bar, the cash machine or for a cigarette on your own - stay in a group and look out for each other.

* Go home in a group and don’t get split up or allow a friend to go home alone.

* Don't accept drinks from strangers - they could be extra-strong or even spiked, and don't leave your drink unattended, even if it's a soft drink.

* Take your drink straight from the bar staff only.

* Pace yourself - getting blind drunk puts you at risk - instead, have a soft drink in-between an alcoholic one and remember. Watch your friend’s drinks and your own. Stay sober enough to look after yourself and each other- alternate with soft drinks.

* Always stay confident and assert yourself.

* Trust your instincts - if it feels wrong it probably is so get out of the situation as quickly as possible and call 999 if you feel at risk or threatened

Advice on being safe on the street.

* If you think someone is following you, check by crossing the street, more than once if necessary, to see if they follow – if you are still worried, get to the nearest place where there are other people, a pub or anywhere with a lot of lights on, and call the Police.

* Avoid using an enclosed phone box in the street, as the attacker could trap you inside

* Don't take short-cuts through dark alleys, parks or across waste ground

* Walk facing the traffic so a car cannot pull up behind you unnoticed

* If a car stops and you are threatened, scream and shout, and set off your personal attack alarm if you have one

* Get away as quickly as you can – this will gain you vital seconds and make it more difficult for the car driver to follow – if you can, make a mental note of the number and description of the car

* Try to look and act confidently even if you don't know the area, looking ahead so that you are not taken by surprise

* can use reasonable force to defend yourself or effect your escape but you may have to justify what you have done later

* Keep bags closed, zipped and buckled. If someone grabs it, let it go. Your valuables can be replaced.

* Don't be flash with your cash, phone, laptop, or MP3 player as these all show thieves you are worth robbing. Instead, disguise your laptop by carrying it in a rucksack and spread your valuables around your body – keep your phone hidden, your house keys in your jeans pocket and money in your coat or jacket.

* Consider using a discreet ring tone or vibrate alert when you're out and about.

* If your phone rings, check to see who's around you before you answer and keep calls brief.

* Remember, if chatting on the phone or listening to your MP3 player, you won't hear someone come up behind you. Your hearing is your best defence.

* Don't use a personal headset to listen to music when walking out on your own or in small groups.

* Walk confidently, be aware of what's going on at all times and always keep to well-lit main streets.

* Call your network or Immobilise Phone Crime on 08701 123 123 to get your stolen or lost phone blocked.

advice when using cashpoints.

* When using cashpoints, go in daylight or with a mate if you can and avoid getting cash out alone if you've been drinking.

* Look around before inserting your card and always shield the keyboard.

* Only take out what you need and don't count your money in full view of strangers.

* Always put money and card away before leaving the machine.

Advice when going home

* Pre-book your cab and leave with your friends - use a well-known firm and check the driver's ID and licence is visible inside the taxi. Also, make sure someone at home knows you are on your way and which firm is driving you and give them the taxi licence number in ear-shot of the driver.

* Never get into an unmarked or unknown private taxi or take up a strangers offer to take you home in order to beat the taxi queues.

* Never get the taxi driver to drop you off at the end of your street or even several streets away. Just because you are in familiar surroundings does not mean you are safe. Opportunists or strangers in the area may pose a risk.

Worst case scenario

* Try to avoid confrontation but if threatened, shout, scream and run towards a popular or well-lit area.

* Set off your personal attack alarm as soon as it is safe to do so.

* If someone tries to take something from you by force, it is best to give it to them – your safety is more important than your valuables.

* Where possible concentrate on his/her description, actions and weapons – these details may help in their detection.

* If something does happen to you, report it immediately to the police and a family member or friend. You could stop it happening to someone else.

In recent years, a growing number of drugs have been used, either alone or in combination with alcohol or other drinks, to render victims powerless. Ecstasy, GHB, and “Special K” are the most common. Don't forget that such drugs are increasingly being used against male victims and not just female!

Many of the date-rape drugs are colorless, odorless, and tasteless; therefore it is easy to slip them into someone’s drink virtually undetected. When mixed with alcohol, the effects can be deadly. In most cases, the victim becomes unconscious, at which point a sexual assault occurs. Common signs or symptoms of having been drugged and possibly assaulted are: a feeling of intense intoxication when minimal or no alcohol has been consumed, nausea/vomiting and severe headache the next day, disheveled or removed clothing, loss of memory and/or time, and pain in the genital and/or anal area.

What to do if you suspect a date-rape drug has been added to your drink or a friend's:

Many of these drugs take effect within 15 minutes, therefore it is important to recognize the signs as soon as they occur and get help right away. Try to have a close friend stay with you at all times and get to a safe place.

Obtain medical attention immediately, and if possible keep the beverage you were drinking and give it to the attending medical staff. Many of these drugs metabolize quickly and cannot be detected in the blood or urine for very long.

It is important to remember that no matter what the situation is, the victim is never to blame for being raped. We can educate about reducing our risk, but an individual can never truly prevent a sexual assault from occurring.

Self-blame and feelings of shame and guilt resulting from a traumatic experience such as this can lead to years of complications.

Tips for identifying the most common date-rape drugs and how they affect an individual:

Name: Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB)
Street Name: GHB, GBL, G, "Grievous Bodily Harm," "Liquid E," "Scoop," "Easy Lay"
Form: Clear liquid or white powder
Immediate Symptoms: Sweating, tremors, weakness, drunken-like state, nausea, drowsiness, confusion, memory loss, sedation, burning sensation in throat and around mouth (liquid)

Name: Ketamine

Street Name: “K”, "Special K," "Kat"
Form: Clear, odorless, tasteless liquid or white powder
Immediate Symptoms: Euphoria, quick burst of energy, drunken feeling, shortness of breath, loss of balance, loss of
time, seizures, coma, vomiting when mixed with alcohol

Name: Ecstasy (Methlenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA)
Street Name: “E”, “X”, "love drug"
Form: Pill (often stamped with a picture or logo)
Immediate Symptoms: Dilated pupils, sweating, teeth grinding, jaw clenching, blurred vision, tremors, palpitations,
euphoria, energy, heightened feelings and/or senses, elevated body temperature.

Source: Merseyside Police / Humberside Police / Women’s Health and Counseling Center Website

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