Although this is a traditional time of year for enjoyment and celebration, employers need to take extra care in dealing with hazards created by workplace related festivities.
Hazards that may arise include: –
+ fire caused by poor quality electrical items, e.g. festive lights on Christmas trees
+ falls from chairs or tables when decorating offices and trees
+ alcohol related incidents, e.g. violence, vehicle accidents.
By implementing some simple procedures, risk of harm or damage can be minimised, for example:
+ for work related parties, ensure that suitable arrangements are in place to control alcohol consumption and that employees have arranged safe means of transport for after the event
+ ensure that all portable electrical items brought onto the premises are inspected and tested, where relevant
+ turn electrical items off when not in use
+ follow manufacturer’s guidance for using electrical items
+ keep decorations away from hot surfaces e.g. light bulbs, heaters
+ use good working at height practices and suitable access equipment when putting up decorations, lights, etc.
+ ensure that celebrations do not affect the safety performance of employees undertaking their work activities.
Citation has found a common concern for employers at this time of year is around the company Christmas party. Many businesses organise a company Christmas party, however some employers are concerned about a small minority of employees who may behave inappropriately at such social events.
Lindsay Hill, Chief Executive of Citation plc says:
“In general, employees attending employer-organised Christmas parties are doing so ‘in the course of their employment’, so employers have some liability for their employees’ actions and welfare when they are attending these functions.
“Putting aside the obvious health & safety issues, the more boisterous the party, the more likely it is that things could go wrong; and the more you’ve done to help make it boisterous – a free bar, themed it ‘devils and tarts’, etc. – the more responsible you’re likely to be if it does go wrong.
“My number one advice is don’t have a free bar. Either mingle and try to buy each of your employees a drink, or arrange to have bar tickets – one ticket, one drink – and issue each employee with a couple of tickets. If you must theme the evening, don’t make the theme provocative – stick to ‘back to the 70s’, or ‘country and western’, etc. Think about designating some senior members of staff to be ‘alcohol free’, so that they can deal sensibly with any unacceptable behaviour.
“Employers also need to think about the steps they can take to help employees to get home safely, such as organising a coach or mini-bus, making sure that no-one will be walking home alone, or having a phone list of local taxis available.
“Finally, because employees are attending ‘in the course of their employment’, the employment laws concerning discrimination and harassment still apply, so there’s no harm in gently reminding employees that they too have responsibilities and that they are expected to comply with the company’s discrimination and harassment policies and to behave in an acceptable manner.”
Operating throughout the UK since 1995, Citation provides professional advice and compliance packages to business clients, mainly SMEs with between six and 200 employees.
Independently endorsed at the highest level, its market leading services provide guaranteed protection in the high risk areas of employment law and health and safety regulations.