OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health

Home Alone 2: An OSH Diagnosis

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Figure 2: 20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

We are all aware of one of our all-time favorite Christmas movie Home Alone 2. It’s definitely one for the books and it is a 1990’s classic that since its debut, we have all grown up with and love. It tells the story of a rather precarious 8 year old boy, Kevin McCallister, being left alone again by his family, but this time in the Big Apple. Once again Kevin is forced to defend himself from two foolish burglars; Harry and Marv otherwise known as, the “Sticky Bandits” who are bound for the Big Apple as well, plotting a huge holiday heist of robbing Toy Duncan’s Chest (toy store.) Kevin’s ready to welcome them with more battery of booby traps the bumbling bandits will never forget! Being one of our favorite comedic Christmas movies of all times we completely turned a blind eye to the health and safety hazards in the movie. Although the movie has its comedic charm, Marv and Harry encountered some pretty terrible incidents where in real life, those incidents would not be as hilarious. It’s amazing to think that this little boy has created these genius traps but it unquestionably brings into the lime-light, what type of hazards it really imposes on the “Sticky Bandits”. Let’s dive right into it, shall we? This risk assessment takes place in the “Reno Scene”.


Injury: Bricks to the head
Figure 3: 20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

The fun begins when Kevin tosses a series of bricks off a six story building. A total number of 4 bricks all hits Marv square on his face. While this may all be amusingly funny, that the bad guys are getting duped by an 8 year old kid, there is undoubtable physical damage done here. This type of impact can cause major head and brain injury such as, cracked skull or severe concussions. They also suffered mild brain injuries at first which can cause headaches, memory problems, nausea and confusion. The scene unfolds with them splitting up to break in through the two entry points into the “Reno House”.

Injury: A bunch of wrenches to the head
20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Harry attempts to enter the house through the back door after his failed attempt to swing into the open window with the use of a hanging fire escape. As he kicks open the door, he triggers a trap that releases a bag of wrenches on his head. This physical injury caused by the impact of these tools hitting him on his head, would have left him severely concussed. Also, when the sticky bandits gets hit by a huge iron bar on their head and faces would be extremely frightening to withstand. With a severe brain injury which Harry and Marv both encountered, in real life they may suffer life-changing and debilitating problems such as cerebral, behavioral, and physical disabilities. Brain damages can be to the point where people end up in a coma or a minimally responsive state and may remain dependent on the care of others for the rest of their lives.


1. Slip and Fall

Injury: Slipping on slippery surfaces
Figure 4: 20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

While attempting to break in through the back door, the stocky built burglar tries to launch himself into an open window by swinging on a hanging fire escape ladder. However, slathered in grease, Harry misses this additional risk apart from the risk of swinging the hanging ladder. He lands with a loud thud onto the ground. This falling hazard, where Harry slipped and fall, can causes a serious of physical pain, such as minor and major back injuries damage to his spinal cord and getting major neck pain

20 Century Fox

20 Century Fox

Essentially, another scene that presented a slip and trip incident was when Harry and Marv first chased Kevin out of Duncan’s Toy Chest (the toy store). Kevin, being the smart kid that he was, bought some pearl necklaces and dispersed the string of pearls on the wet sidewalk causing the sticky bandits to slip and fall on their backsides as he makes his escape. This hazard could’ve led to a sprained ankle or a broken limb for the least. It may lead to an injury to the ligaments or muscles in the back such as a strain. Also, a fracture or dislocation of the spine can cause a spinal cord injury and this can be a pretty tough pain to bear. Additionally, there was scene in the latter part of the movie when Kevin falls on ice. Most of the time, falling on ice can lead to a strain of some of the deep muscles in the back.

2. Step and Fall

Injury: Falling face first on concrete floor
20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Marv, after making it through the front door, takes a step in unknown that there is a gaping hole through the middle of the floor. He falls through 15 feet landing in the basement on an open concrete floor. This is without a doubt a major design flaw on a walking surface, where Marv encounters the hazard of stepping and falling due to a design flaw. This type of hazard causes serious bodily physical harm to the human body, such as neck, back and head injuries. Following up was the scene where Marv slips on the green gooey stuff on the floor and he encountered a pretty bad fall where he skid straight into a shelf with paint jars. This can cause a lot of bodily harm and the paint all over his body and face can cause skin irritations and a burning sensation in his eyes which can result in blindness. Also the weight of the shelf can cause serious damage to his body.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

In addition, Harry also makes a fall flat on his face when he decides to follow Kevin up a faulty ladder (ladder misuse causes up to 16% of all fatalities and 24% of all non-fatal injuries in USA).  This can lead to serious concussions to the head and severe damage to the lower back. One can suffer the consequences of not being able to walk properly or even walk at all.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Once again, Marv takes the fall for this one. He refuses to give up chasing the little kid and essentially sees a rope hanging from the floor above and thinks he can use it to get to the top but little does he know that Kevin tied the rope around a 100lb bag of cement. He tried testing to see if it was faulty before actually climbing as he thought he had a chance to succeed. However, the first attempt that Marv made to pull himself up, the 100lb bag of cement came crashing down on him. Not only is this a falling hazard but it can also be a chemical hazard since the cement bag burst on Marv and he was covered. The particles could have entered his body through inhalation, absorption or ingestion. This could have also been a toxic/ acute effect since it was a severe exposure level (100lbs) and it happened in one incident. As funny as this scene was, can you imagine getting a sack of flour on you head? A sack of flour is heavy and can lead to brain damage which causes destruction or deterioration of brain cells. In the U.S., every year, about 2.6 million people have some type of brain injury — whether as a result of trauma, stroke, tumor, or other illnesses, according to the Brain Injury Association of America. About 52,000 die as a result of traumatic brain injury, and more than 5 million Americans who’ve suffered traumatic brain injury require assistance in performing daily activities.

Injury: Falling from a height on a car

Hysterical as it seemed in our greatest movie, when Harry falls on the car after their unsuccessful attempt of robbing the toy store, this incident in reality can lead to death, worst case scenario. Someone can result in fractured body parts, brain damage and also endure major cuts and bruises from all the broken glass .Marv and Harry makes this movie comedic perfection, however in reality they would be dead.  Falling is one of the leading cause of accidental deaths and is a major cause of personal injury. A victim may be hospitalized with broken arms and legs and may also suffer severe brain damage.


Injury: Electrocuted through contact open conduction
20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

After Marv’s encounter with the shelves of interior paint, he seeks to wash his face by attempting to open a faucet located in the basement. However, he falls into another trap set by Kevin, where the facets are connected to and electric plan, where electricity is flowing and conducting through the metal faucets. As he touches the iron faucet, he gets shocks so violently, his skeleton is visible for a few seconds. Can you imagine what that felt like? No? Me neither. Let me elaborate I’ve been shocked a few times but never to that extreme. The inherent danger of electrical shock is no laughing matter as it often results in serious injury and can even be fatal. If you’re shocked to the point where your skeleton really shows in real life, you’re dead! This hazard is majorly dangerous as the resulting injury can be death. Burns are usually most severe at the points of contact with the electrical source and the ground. In addition to burn injuries, Marv can encounter internal and spine injuries as well. Pain in a hand or foot or deformity of a part of the body may indicate broken bones resulting from the devastating electric shock. About 1000 people in the United States die each year as a result of electrocution (death caused by electric shock.)


Injury: Blow torch to the head
20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

At this point a very unlucky Harry makes his way into the house after getting sacked with a bag full of wrenches. As he makes his way through the house, safely pulling on a series of light strings, he lets his guard down and pulls the last one in the bathroom without being cautious. As he does, it ignites a blow torch that is strategically aimed for the back of his head. His highly flammable knitted cotton cap is then caught on fire. When he realizes, he falls into another well laid trap by Kevin. He strategically maneuvers himself to do a hand stand on the toilet bowl in an effort to extinguish his head. Unknown to him, Kevin swapped the water with kerosene! Well we can all imagine what happened after this, an explosion. Literally, the entire ground floor of the apartment building is filled with flames. For sure there is no way Harry escaped with minor injuries. Fire hazards like this can result in severe burns to the body as well as respiratory injuries due to the inhalation of the smoke and in this particular scene Harry would have been burnt to death.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Also, in one of the scenes of the movie, Marv and Harry were climbing down the rope soaked with kerosene and Kevin strikes a match and flames just spread. In reality, burns can result from this. Picture this! You on a rope soaked with gas and it’s on fire. My vision would be death. This would be a very scary and body-trembling experience to be in.


20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

I’m sure everyone can agree that coming to think of it, the movie portrayed some horrible accidents. The first point one should note about biological hazards is that there are three major routes of entry for microorganisms to enter the body; the respiratory system, transmission through contact with body fluids of the infected or contact with a contaminated object. The last one pertains to this scene.  In the specific scene where Marv pulls the doorknob in the house and gets nails shot at him on his thigh and nose, this was a really good laugh. However, in veracity, Marv could have suffered some form of disease due to the rusty nail. It may have bacteria contained in it and could lead to severe illness when it comes into contact with his blood. Also, he can undergo skin irritation and infections and this may also leave his thigh and face swollen and bruised. It can also be poisonous therefore Marv would have suffered the consequences of poisoning and even so death.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Also, at the ending of the movie where Harry and Marv was about to get caught, the pigeon lady in the park helped Kevin get away by throwing all the pigeon food on both bandits. A flock of pigeons crowded them and began picking them. As we all know, pigeons are extremely filthy to say the least. There are over 60 diseases that birds and their droppings (bird poop) can carry. Avian flu is most common but there is also candidiasis which is a yeast or fungus infection spread by pigeons. Together with this, histoplasmosis is a type of respiratory disease that may be lethal. It results from a fungus growing in dried bird droppings. So as funny as this particular scene was, in reality it would have been a serious chaotic incident.


Points to note before jumping into the movie’s chemical hazards. Chemical hazards can come in all three states of matter (solid, liquid and gas); which makes it one of the more dangerous and harder to spot, types of hazards. They can also be categorized under the headings; flammability, re-activity and health. In other words, how easily the chemical can be ignited, whether the chemical will react to external elements, potentially inflicting bodily harm or the overall effects on one’s health due to exposure to such chemicals. In the movie, chemical hazards were observed in all three forms of matter.

Looking at the gas hazards, paint and varnish fumes would be quite strong in the renovation house, not to mention the fact there was very limited ventilation. This would have led to lightheaded-ness, dizziness, burning eyes, faint feeling among other things. Another vital and extremely dangerous gas is the carbon emissions from cars as Kevin, Harry and Marv made there was around the streets of New York. This health hazard is sometimes overlooked ,but can lead to serious medical issues with long term exposure, not to mention the volume of vehicular traffic on the streets of New York.

Components of Kerosine

Components of Kerosene

There was also a number of liquid chemical hazards used in the movie. Firstly, kerosene was used to soak the rope the boys were rappelling down, and seconds later we saw the direct flammability hazard as mentioned above when Kevin ignited the rope with a lit match, which quickly burnt the entire rope into flames.  On the topic of flammability liquids, lighter fluid was also put into a toilet bowl which caused a huge explosion when  Harry stuck his already burning beanie into it. There was also tins of paint throughout the house, some of which where spilled on Marv, getting into his mouth and eyes. This could have had the potential to impair his vision and cause  malfunctioning of his internal organs such as his heart, lungs and nervous system. The green slime used to make the fire escape ladder and basement floors extremely slippery is also worth mentioning, though it might be seen as a slip, trip and fall hazard, the potential for internal bodily harm exist if someone were to ingest this poisonous liquid.

Lastly, dust particles (solids), which were evident in both the theatre and Kevin’s aunt and uncle’s house which was being renovated. Some of the contributors to the dust would have been rubble from the deconstruction, as well as cement and drywall. As we know, exposure to cement dust can lead to lung function impairment, lung disease and also affect your heart, liver, colon, stomach and other organs. The floors and trash shoot would have had a heavy layer of dust from the renovations, not to mention the saw dust and wood shavings which would have also been raised as the three made their way around the house.

Evidently, the movie is for comedic purposes, however in real life situations, corrective and preventative action could be taken place. Due to Marv and Harry’s idiotic behavior, they were unable to do so. At the first scene spoken about, when Marv gets the brick thrown at him, in reality he should have gotten up and went straight to the hospital to cure the damage to his forehead. Also, Harry’s failed attempt to enter the house resulted in him getting a bunch of wrenches on his head. He should have looked around his surroundings knowing Kevin had mischief up his sleeve. He should have went straight to the hospital as well. Also, Toy Duncan’s Chest store should have taken proper security measures for burglars especially during Christmas time. Having security guards on alert would have prevented the glass from being broken and any other potential hazards.

Additionally, elimination of the source of contamination is central to the control and prevention of biological hazards. In reality, before entering a house which is being renovated, one should look out for heavy objects, sharp or pointy objects which can cause damage to your skin and also loose equipment such as the flooring and ladder as seen in the movie. Also slip, trip and fall play a key role to ensure the comedic feel of the movie is achieved. It results from not having a good bearing between your feet and the ground. Marv and Harry could have avoided these incidents by wearing proper footwear and having an appropriate pace of walking to prevent their silly falling accidents. Being absent minded is one of the most common ways to endure a slip trip and fall.

Also toxic material such as the jar of paints should have been stored away properly and have clear warning signs on them. Fire extinguishers must also be present in all areas being personal homes, workplaces or buildings so to reduce the harm caused by fires. Also Marv and Harry should have avoided skin contact with toxic materials, protect their eyes and face from the chemical substances and avoid breathing in toxic dusts which were present in the “Reno House.” Also, with respect to Marv being electrocuted, individuals are prone to getting hurt with wet locations and ladders involved. Being mindful and safety conscious would reduce the risk of being electrocuted.

We can now see Home Alone 2 at a different angle recognizing the health and safety hazards which affected the “Sticky Bandits.” Being one of our desired Christmas movie we can clearly highlight the specific injuries and the consequences tied to it. Furthermore, preventative actions and measures was clearly outlined showing how Harry and Marv could have reduced their accidents.


Back Pain After Falling on Ice. (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2015, from http://www.uihealthcare.org/2column.aspx?id=236463

Brain Damage: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments. (2010, May 1.). Retrieved October 16, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/brain/brain-damage-symptoms-causes-treatments

Electric Shock. (2009, June 22.). Retrieved October 16, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/electric-shock?print=true

Home Alone 2. Dir. John Hughes. Fox Video, 1999. Film.

OSH Answers Fact Sheets. (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2015, from http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/falls.html

OSH Answers Fact Sheets. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2015, from http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/prevention/toxic_safe.html


One thought on “Home Alone 2: An OSH Diagnosis

  1. Not only was your post enlightening, it was entertaining. The short media clips allowed readers to see some of the hazards playing out before their eyes, helping you to spread understanding of the many hazard categories you discussed. It was good that you evaluated why the hazard was present and discussed some ways to mitigate risk as well, though this evaluation would have been strengthened with some reference to OSH theory and citation of appropriate sources. It was easy to connect with you message and any typos did not get in the way of understanding what you were sharing about. Entertaining and useful contribution.


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