Updated: Dec 20, 2021
Christmas is fast approaching! Did you know company health and safety responsibilities extends to the work Christmas party? Even if it is off-site and outside of normal business hours?
Employers organising Christmas parties need to be aware of their health and safety responsibilities. Top Management may be liable if a worker is injured, harmed or harassed at the Christmas staff party
Work Christmas parties are a kiwi tradition and there is no reason that your company can’t enjoy the party without a little planning. Here are some tips to celebrate while keeping safe and healthy.
1. Act Responsibly
Potential injuries and harassments from intoxication are increased risks at Christmas parties. Remind staff of appropriate conduct at the event, this could be communicated before the event via email, on the notice board or on the invite. Using slogans / posters such as “look after your mates” or “please leave your mates behind” (NZ drinking campaign messaging) is a good way to get the message across.
The conversation can be a light hearted reminder of what is appropriate and what isn’t. It will help set the tone for the event. Responsible drinking will help reduce the risk of harassments, assault, abuse and injuries.
2. Know Your Legal Obligations Around Alcohol
Whether you’re going to a pub / restaurant or having a BBQ at work / someones house, be sure you are following the laws around serving alcohol. Ensure no-one drinks alcohol who shouldn’t be (persons under age 18).
You may also want to limit the amount of alcohol to discourage excess consumption or intoxication. Include 1 or 2 free drinks on the company tab and staff are to purchase extra out of their own pocket. Having someone serving drinks can also limit the amount someone may drink.
3. Offer Alcohol Free Alternatives
Have alcohol free alternatives and low-alcohol options available for those who prefer
not to drink, too young to drink, or to help encourage staff to have a alcohol free
alternative to help pace themselves and drink responsibly.
There are some great alternatives available now days, especially in low sugar
alternatives for those who like / require healthier options.
You may even want to have “sober buddies” during the event to help manage
and monitor the event, keep an eye on children, make themselves available if an
emergency were to occur, or if a sober driver was urgently required.
What is a Christmas party without glorious food! Provide plenty of food, including healthy options, and options for those with dietary requirements. Food will assist with slowing down alcohol absorption.
The less food someone has in their stomach, the faster any alcohol they consume will enter their blood stream. Ensure your team eats before they drink. If you are self-catering ensure that food handling and storage requirements are maintained.
Discuss hygiene and proper food practices with those in charge of cooking and food preparation. Discuss and know of any allergies staff may have and ensure contamination risks are kept low.
Ensure clean up is completed to a high standard with waste management options thought of in advance. If you are self-catering check out resources available at foodsafety.govt.nz.
5. Games and Activities
Have some activities or games planned for the party so drinking is not the sole focus of the event. Having a secret santa gifts or a team activity such as bowling, golf, cart racing, laser strike, escape rooms or something else a little different can also help boost morale, communications and team culture.
Unfortunately Covid-19 controls will need to be thought about this year. Ensure you have a Covid-19 QR Code set up for people to sign into. If possible try have the event outdoors. Assess the need for mask wearing and social distancing. Consider having department Christmas parties to help limit the guest list. If you have questions about your event, contact Ministry of Health or the OHS team to discuss options.
7. Safe Transport Options
Another great health and safety risk is transport home at the end of the night. Have taxis, Ubers or sober drivers organized to ensure people get home safely after your event.
Paying for staff to taxi, Uber or bus home will ensure they are not tempted to jump behind the wheel if they have had a couple of alcoholic drinks. Communicate your company views and policies surrounding drink driving before the event. If you have staff willing to sober drive their workmates, offer an incentive such as a petrol voucher to say thanks.
A little planning goes a long way to ensure an enjoyable, safe and healthy event. Consider the impact on your business and team if an injury or incident was to occur.
Take your health and safety best practices with you to the Christmas party and have fun!