Yes – I’m afraid so ... it looks like health and safety madness. But I’m going to try and look at the risks, provide some food for thought (not Christmas pudding though – urgh) and hope we all have a safe and happy Christmas.
Why and how is this important to me?
As a business owner or manager, you are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of your staff, anyone who visits your business and the business itself.
In addition, a workplace Christmas party is considered an extension of the workplace – with all the risks attached.
None of the following lists are exhaustive – that would take up pages and pages of notes. But I hope it gives you an indication of the risks.
What can I do?
The first thing is to remember it is a time of enjoyment, people do like to celebrate the holiday period, put up decorations and go to the office party – but don’t force people to go.
This is more of a ‘what should I do?’
Please provide tested and safe step ladders – don’t let people use their office chairs, or desks when putting up decorations. Think about moving of boxes and working at height You can have parties too, see the end of this publication.
And you may need to think about a risk assessment – yes, really. If something happened whilst the decorations were being put up, you may be asked for the risk assessment by your insurer or solicitor.
You do not need to perform a formal risk assessment for every task. You need to focus on real risks and how you will control them - the significant risks identified can all be recorded in one overall risk assessment which should also include a note of the action you intend to take.
Acting to control the real risks should be the priority, not drafting endless paperwork covering every task staff undertake.
But remember, risk assessments are there to:
- Identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards)
- Decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk)
- Eliminate the hazard; or if this is not possible, control the risk
Can I put up decorations?
Yes – of course you can. If you want to.
But, think about your smoke or heat sensors, security alarm sensors, and fire call points – you don’t want to obstruct any of these.
Likewise, the Christmas tree, if you’re in a public facing business do you really want little Jimmy toddler trying to climb up your perfectly arranged tree – and then falling?
Think about the decorations you’re using,
- Are the lights wired, if they get plugged in do, they need testing? Don’t place them where they may cause a fire, or even mimic a fire and have you coming out on multiple false alarms during the night!
- Is the tinsel fire resistant?
- Is the Christmas tree in a suitable location and not creating another risk?
- Baubles, are they unbreakable? I’m sure you don’t want to be sweeping up shards of ultra-sharp thin glass!
- Make sure that there are no trip hazards – Santa’s Grotto can get in the way!
Think about any cracker toys and party food – if you’ve got a pet friendly office, the little bits are an exciting and intriguing thing for the animals to explore. Not always with a good outcome.
You should also give serious thoughts to the provided food for any people with intolerances or allergies. Both in the office and during the external Christmas party.
Can I have Christmas parties?
Absolutely – if you want one, then go for it. It can be a great morale booster – if done correctly.
Please remember that every year there are the social media and newspaper articles about the Christmas parties. Think about:
- Security risks– sharing access with third-party suppliers, such as entertainers, adds to the risk of “zoom-bombing”, unauthorised recording or a future security breach
- Employee risks– while a fight at the Christmas party may be unlikely now, the perennial hazards of staff getting drunk, behaving inappropriately or harassing a colleague remain
- Morale risks– whether furloughed or exhausted by extra work, staff are unlikely to appreciate lavish spending if colleagues are facing redundancy
- Advise staff that normal workplace rules of conduct and behaviour still apply and will have to be enforced.
- Brief managers and supervisors to set a good example and give them the tools to head off problematic situations before they get out of hand.
- Block anyone who may be behaving inappropriately – even wild dancing can be a cause for concern
- Address any incidents or allegations as soon after the event as possible, and fairly according to your normal procedures and policies
- Ensure that your staff can travel home safely
- Think about your employees driving the next morning – alcohol takes some time to metabolise so your employees may still be over the limit.
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