Put Safety First at the Year End Office Party!!

Safety is most often not the first point on the list of priorities when it comes to year end celebrations. We should however keep a few important aspects in mind, not only to avoid potential liability, but more important – to ensure that this is not our farewell to this world as well!

The Mining Safety website, which is developed in partnership with the Arrive Alive road safety initiative, has been able to share some safety advice received from one of the partners in the mining industry. We would like to share this advice with a wider audience and those planning year end celebrations in other industries as well!

Having a holiday party and a having a safe time are not mutually exclusive. It’s the kind of party an employer throws that may make the difference between a lawful dream and a legal nightmare.

The culprit for potential legal nightmares resulting from company holiday parties will probably come as little surprise: alcohol. Drunk driving, accidents, injuries, fights, violence, outrageous sexual behavior, exhibitionism, and sexual harassment almost always come down to too much of it.

Courts in most states have ruled that employers who serve liquor may be liable for injuries to spouses, guests, or third parties as a result of accidents caused by intoxication at a company party.

Tips for Avoiding Liability

The safest policy is to have an alcohol-free, family-oriented holiday party for employees. This way the whole drinking-and-driving issue is moot. (Of course, you might still need to make sure employees aren’t slipping outside for a smoke and a beer or something stronger).

If, however, alcohol is served, or available, follow some simple and necessary rules:

•             Distribute your substance abuse policy again. All employees should have read it before, and now they’ll have the chance—and obligation—to read it again. Stress it. Post it. Communicate it widely. Include a sentence or two clearly stating that the policy includes not only the use of substances at the workplace, but also at work-related or work-sponsored events. The policy should make clear that over-consumption of alcohol will not be tolerated.

•             Have the party somewhere other than at the workplace if you are serving alcohol it’s best to. It is less likely to be considered a work event.

•             Do not conduct company business at the party. Don’t invite clients and customers to drink with your employees. Don’t expect or suggest to employees that they entertain, sell to, or generally imbibe with clients and customers if some appear.

•             Don’t require attendance or even suggest that it’s important. Make it strictly voluntary!

•             Have the party planned and managed by employees and supervisors whom you regard as responsible and levelheaded. They should be the type who think ahead and would be able to deal with various situations before they get out of hand.

•             Give out drink tickets, and limit them to two apiece. And limit provision of liquor to the tickets—no cash bar. Be sure alcohol service is cut off well before people expect to leave.

•             Hire a professional bartender who will refrain from drinking at the party, and will know to serve measured amounts of liquor.

•             Serve food, and lots of it, and make sure that soda, juices, and water are available as well.

  • Have breathalysers available for employees to test themselves before they drive home.

•             Have a few employees act as designated drivers, who don’t drink at all, and have the responsibility of driving people home who request rides. Or provide taxis for this purpose. Let all employees know that these rides are available to them.

We would like to urge all motorists to avoid the urge to drive when they have had a drink!

A very important aspect to keep in mind is always “How much is too much to drink before I drive?”

Also view:

Powerful road safety message shared with ArriveAlive.co.za by Willy Nel from a visit to New Zealand

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