Are you hosting an end of year work Christmas party for your employees where alcohol will be served? It is important that you are aware that you may be liable under Health and Safety legislation, even if the work party is held off-site.
What does the Health and Safety at Work Act say?
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers are required to provide their employees with a safe workplace, protecting them against harm. The Act states the employers must, “so far as is reasonably practicable” ensure that the health and safety of employees is not put at risk. When defining what is meant by “reasonably practicable”, the Act states that employers should weigh up various factors including:
- The chance of the dangerous event or risk occuring;
- The level of harm that could result;
- What the person knows or should know about the hazard of the risk and the ways of eliminating or minimising the risk;
- Ways to reduce the risk; and
- The cost associated with minimising the risk (and whether doing so is disproportionate to the risk itself).
“Hazard” as referred to in the Act includes where a person’s behaviour has the potential to cause death, injury or illness to a person, and includes whether their behaviour results from alcohol. Therefore, in the case of a work Christmas party where alcohol is being served, the potential for alcohol to affect someone’s behaviour, putting others at risk, is increased.
Employers must reasonably be aware of the hazard of risk occurring and must take reasonable steps to eliminate or minimise the risk in a reasonably practicable manner.
In the context of hosting a work Christmas event where alcohol is being served, reasonable steps to eliminate and minimise risk might include providing plenty of food, providing non-alcoholic drinks and setting limits on number of drinks.
Liability is not excluded just because you are off-site
It is important for employers to be aware that liability can arise at work events held off-site. As defined in section 20 of the Act, “workplace” means:
- A place where work is being carried out, or is customarily carried out, for a business or undertaking; and
- Includes any place where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work.
A venue that is used for work events will be considered part of the workplace. This means that even if the work party is held at a venue off-site, you cannot strike out the possibility of liability under the Health and Safety at Work Act and you must do everything that is reasonably practicable to provide a safe environment for your employees.
Conclusion: Be aware of the risk and put plans in place to eliminate that risk
In conclusion, it is important that you are aware of the risks and that you do everything that is reasonably practicable to provide a safe environment for your employees.
Every situation is unique so please discuss your situation with a professional advisor who can provide tailored solutions to you.
If you have any questions arising from the issues raised in this article or relating to any other employment law matters, you are welcome to get in touch with us by calling 03-348-8480.