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Avoiding safety slip-ups at the work Christmas party

Written on 4 November 2022

health-safety-christmas

It’s that time of year again, when workplaces everywhere gather their staff together to enjoy the festivities and celebrate hard work.

When party season is in full swing, mention of health and safety can be somewhat of a mood killer. However, while your focus will be on fun and team-building, it’s important to remember that the Christmas party is an extension of the workplace.

Indeed, as an employer, your responsibility for the health and safety of employees doesn’t stop just because it’s the season of good will, or because you’re not on work ground.

With this in mind, here are five tips for avoiding seasonal safety disasters so that you can enjoy an incident-free Christmas party and a claim-free New Year.

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1. All I want for Christmas is… a safe venue

Your choice of party venue is key. Staying in the office means that you’ll be able to maintain control of any risks. However, if you’ve chosen an external venue, then the “reasonably practicable” steps required to protect against potential hazards may be higher and more cumbersome.

Even if you’ve chosen to hold your party at an external venue, it is still an employer-sponsored event. This means that employers remain responsible for making sure that the venue is safe and appropriate for staff. In selecting the venue, you will therefore need to have carefully considered the risks.

Read our tips for risk assessing event venues here.

2. Deck the halls… and risk assess them

As the party is an employer-sponsored event, the same duty to carry out a risk assessment will likely apply. 

This means considering any known and/or reasonably foreseeable hazards and taking appropriate steps ahead of time to either remove them or, if this isn’t possible, minimise the risk.

It’s always good practice to record the findings of your risk assessment and the action taken. That way, should an incident occur, you will be able to evidence that you took all reasonable steps to keep people safe.

3. Have a moderately merry Christmas

There’s nothing wrong with a complimentary mug of mulled wine or glass of Prosecco to celebrate the successes of the year gone by. However, putting on a free bar until 2am, while likely to go down a storm, might be a recipe for disaster.

Alcohol consumption reduces brain and bodily function. It also seriously impairs judgement, and while HR issues might be your more immediate concern, it can also greatly increase the likelihood of accidents.

As an employer, it’s never wise to encourage the over-consumption of alcohol. Make it clear beforehand that as a work event, staff are still required to act in a polite and courteous manner. Set clear boundaries and expectations, particularly regarding alcohol consumption and lewd conduct, and always bear in mind that there is still a duty of care on you – the employer.

4. I’m dreaming of an… incident-free event

It’s a good idea to appoint an appropriate person to monitor health and safety during the party by:

  • Watching out for potentially dangerous situations emerging;
  • Making sure the event runs as planned;
  • Acting as a point of contact for staff to report a risk; and
  • Periodically checking that any control measures you have put in place remain effective.

The appointed individual should be be familiar with your organisation’s health and safety policy, as well as any work-related social events policy, and have the authority to take action if necessary.

5. Driving home for Christmas… safely

Employers aren’t generally responsible for the safety of staff during their daily commute. However, for an event arranged for staff, it is sensible to offer some form of transport, even if this is simply the number for local taxi services, to help ensure staff get home safely and avoid unnecessary risks being taken.

Remember, police ramp up their surveillance in the lead up to Christmas, so for this reason and in the interest of safety, enforce a strict no drinking and driving policy. It’s a good idea to circulate a memo prior to the event to remind employees to take it easy and to encourage them to make travel arrangements ahead of time so that they’re not tempted to put themselves or others at risk.

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Get the gift of specialist Health & Safety support, all year round

Health and safety shouldn’t be a barrier to having fun; however, striking the right balance between safety and what you want to be doing can be difficult, and it’s common for employers to either become too bogged down in red tape or fail to control risks sufficiently.

That’s where WorkNest can help. Our fixed-fee service gives you support from a highly-qualified Health & Safety Consultant who will work with you to identify sensible and proportionate measures to your health and safety challenges, as well as provide hands-on support with everything from policy creation to on-site audits.

Make becoming health and safety confident your New Year’s resolution. Call 0345 226 8393 or request your free consultation using the button below.

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