4th December 2007


 Issue No.  2007/33




We are always up for a good time at Christmas but would take this opportunity to put a couple of reminders to you. Employees and workers can get overexcited, may act out of character and there may be some seasonal additional safety risks. By thinking about potential problems and taking some preventative action you can help make it a happy and safe Christmas (as well as minimise the risk of employment tribunal claims!).
The “Bah Humbug” from the Health & Safety Team:

Christmas Decorations
If you display Christmas decorations, you should ensure that they do not obstruct important safety signs/notices; and you should look at the location of the decorations to risk assess whether they pose a potential fire hazard. Equally important is when the decorations are being displayed, you need to ensure that they are being done so safely, ensuring that proper equipment is being used. Use appropriate access equipment (NOT desks or chairs!!) when displaying decorations at height.

If you use Christmas lights, have they been PAT tested (or were they in a box at the time of testing and got missed)?
The “Bah Humbug” from the Employment Law Team:
Christmas Party
Are you having a “bit of a do” this Christmas? Whilst Christmas parties are for you, your colleagues and employees to celebrate the end of another year, just be aware of the risks of having a party. At a “works do”, the employer becomes vicariously liable for incidents that occur.  Most parties tend to involve alcoholic beverages and the following could happen:  
  • Someone may say things they don’t mean (or perhaps would not say if sober) and upset colleagues; or
  • someone “tries it on” with a colleague and the ‘advance’ may not be welcomed and could amount to sexual harassment; or
  • two employees argue, fuelled with alcohol, it turns to a fight,
  • employee drives home over the legal limit
So what should you do? Well we do not suggest you serve up a massive portion of “bah humbug” but do urge you to take a few simple precautions.
When inviting staff to the office party, include a comment reminding them that:
  • It is a “Company do” and therefore they are expected to behave. 
  • Whilst hoping everyone will enjoy themselves, excessive consumption of alcohol can result in actions, behaviour or comments that may later be regretted. Misbehaviour by one can spoil the party for everybody else. Therefore, ask all to; act sensibly, don’t drink excessively and do not do anything that damages the reputation of the organisation or upset or offend colleagues or anybody else (e.g. bar staff) at the party.
A job for the Boss (or your nominee)!
Ideally someone in a senior position should be responsible for staying “sober” so they can deal sensibly with any unfortunate event. This might include preventing someone from driving or dealing with unsavoury behaviour. By maintaining a clear head they would be able to give a reliable account of events at any subsequent investigation back at the work place. A bit hard on the “sober” employee.
But let’s not forget…Better to be safe than sorry
And finally a reminder to your employees before the Christmas party:- use it in your festive communications
Any amount of alcohol can affect a driver’s ability to drive safely; react appropriately and judge speed and distances accurately. The only safe option is NOT to drink if you plan to drive home after the party.
Therefore if you intend having an alcoholic drink we recommend you make alternative arrangements to get home.  DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE.
You should also be aware that alcohol may remain in the body for around 24 hours. If you are going to drive early the following day, you should be aware of the possibility of having excess alcohol left in your system from the night before.
With a little advance thought and planning there should be no reason why we should not all enjoy the run up to Christmas and the New Year in the traditional fashion.




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