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Safety Tips from I-Safety

Spotlight Tip of the Week

Everyone enjoys the smell of the holidays: fresh-baked cookies, cinnamon and cloves, fresh-cut evergreens, skunk scent and fox urine. At least, those last two is what Christmas will smell like for anyone tempted to cut down a Christmas tree from the University of Idaho's Moscow campus.

Each year, the landscape team at U of I sprays about 100 trees on campus with a natural repellent of skunk scent and fox urine, as well as a sticking agent, to protect them from theft and destruction during the holiday season.

The repellent is fairly innocuous while outdoors in colder temperatures, but if brought into a warm room volatilizes quickly and emits a repugnant odor that will remain in the room and on furniture and carpeting for a long period of time. This material is completely natural and doesn't harm the trees or the environment and stays on the trees for about 4 weeks depending on weather.

Commercial Christmas trees are grown and marketed specifically for the holidays. Permits can also be taken out for cutting your own Christmas trees in our nearby forests. Stealing a landscape evergreen tree that is worth from $500 to $2500 dollars depending on the size, location and species of tree taken, is a huge loss for the university landscape.

Some signage is posted around campus to deter would-be thieves and inform the public of what is happening, but we do not sign most of the trees that are sprayed. We want to protect our landscape trees from needless destruction and both U of I Security and the Moscow Police Department are informed about this yearly protection program as well. Stealing or vandalizing an evergreen on campus can result in a felony charge.

Anyone with knowledge about campus tree thefts should notify Moscow Police immediately by calling 208-882-2677.

In order to minimize the potential fire hazards associated with holiday season decorations, Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) has prepared the following information to guide your decorating plans. The list below is not an exhaustive list of concerns but summarizes a few of the major points. For the full list, visit the Holiday Decorations page on the EHS website.

General Decorations

  • Fire code requires all decorations to be non-combustible or treated with a U.L. listed fire retardant.
  • Use only U.L. listed, non-heat producing holiday lighting strands and follow manufacturer's recommendations on number of strands that may be plugged into each other.
  • Power strips with a fuse or circuit breaker are recommended if there are not enough outlets. Do not run electrical cords through doorways or under throw rugs or loose carpeting and never string cords across doorways or walkways.
  • All decorations must be kept away from exit signs, fire alarm devices (pull stations, smoke and heat detectors, etc.), fire extinguishers, and emergency and normal-use light fixtures. Exit signs and emergency lights must not be obstructed in any way.
  • Use of open flame (e.g., candles, luminaria, incense) is prohibited.

Holiday trees have additional concerns to address, such as height, location and lighting used. Again, for the full list, visit the Holiday Decorations page on the EHS website.

Culture of Questioning

Questioning certain practices with safety in mind is an essential attitude to keep you and the rest of the Vandal family safe. Questioning challenges the complacency that grows in familiar situations and drives change. Questioning safety practices, or perhaps a lack thereof, is vital to developing a culture of safety at the University of Idaho. The goal is for everyone to return home at the end of every day just as healthy as when they arrived on campus.

Safety issues are often recognized but go unreported because a person doesn't know whom to contact or assumes that someone else is already taking care of it. At U of I, we want everyone to challenge these assumptions, question the situation and report the issues. The Report a Safety Concern form was created just for this purpose. It allows for anonymous reporting if you choose, as well as the option to upload an image of the safety problem when appropriate. It is available for anyone to use, and concerns will be directed to the proper campus unit to correct the problem.

Students and employees are the eyes and ears of the community, and your help is essential. Get involved in the safety training opportunities available to you, ask questions if you have a concern about a procedure, take part in safety inspections and report issues right away - issues cannot be corrected if no one knows about them. Timely questioning and reporting can prevent accidents and near misses. If an accident or near miss does occur, report this as well; investigating the reason will help avoid another injury.

As a supervisor, you have additional influence - lead by example and ensure safety is a core value in your team's activities. You are encouraged to do workplace inspections, ensure your employees are current on their safety training, talk regularly with your employees and discuss accident investigation reports with them and the U of I EHS staff. EHS has many resources available for you and the EHS staff can assist all supervisors in their safety efforts.

Our Vandal culture is how we think and act in all our activities. Avoiding complacency and continuously challenging existing conditions that might pose a safety risk allows us as a community to identify discrepancies and take appropriate actions before an accident or near miss occurs. Put safety first and we can achieve the safest possible working and learning environment for our Vandal family.

Contact Us

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Dr
MS 2030 
Moscow, ID

Phone: 208-885-6524

Fax: 208-885-5969