It's getting to that time of year again: tinsel dusted off and strung over computer screens, sparkly trees propped at the end of the kitchen counter and, of course, the annual office Christmas party.
This is a time to be merry and celebrate the hard work everyone in your office has put in over the year. However, it's not just employees that need to remember the Christmas party is an "extension of the work place". Employers' responsibility for the health and safety of their employees doesn't stop when the Christmas songs start...
To avoid any issues this festive season here are my top five tips for a fun, accident-free Christmas party and hopefully, a claim-free New Year:
1. All I want for Christmas is a good venue
The venue for your office party is key. Choosing to stay in the office means that you maintain control of any risks but the steps which may be considered "reasonably practicable" to protect against potential hazards may be higher and more cumbersome than if you choose to go to an external venue.
However, even if you choose to go out of the office, it is still an employer-sponsored event, meaning employers will remain responsible for ensuring the venue is safe and appropriate for staff - so consider the risks and choose your venue carefully.
2. Deck the halls with risk assessments
At an employer-sponsored event the same rules are likely to apply for carrying out risk assessments. Employers need to think about known and reasonably foreseeable hazards and take appropriate steps before the party starts, to avoid injuries where possible. Should something go wrong, it's good practice to have these risk assessments written down so they can be referred to in the future.
3. Have yourself a (moderately) merry Christmas
A complimentary mug of mulled wine to celebrate a successful year is great - a free bar until 3am might not be such a good idea. Alcohol reduces brain function and impairs judgment, making accidents all the more likely. Employers shouldn't encourage overconsumption of alcohol and should ensure employees know before the big event that it won't be tolerated.
4. I'm dreaming of an incident-free Christmas party
Appoint an appropriate person to keep an eye on health and safety during the Christmas party. That person should be familiar with the company's health and safety policy and any policy on work-related social events. It's worth having someone who can make sure the event runs as planned, act as a point of contact for staff to report a risk, and has authority to take action, if necessary.
5. Safely driving home for Christmas
While employers are not generally responsible for the safety of their staff on their daily commute, for an event arranged for staff it is wise to offer transport (such as buses or the number for local taxi services) to safely get people home and avoid employees being tempted to take unnecessary risks.
Lastly, have fun! Christmas is a great time of year to get staff together and boost team morale.
With just a little bit of forward planning, health and safety concerns can be addressed before the big event, ensuring everyone can relax and have a great time on the day.