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Among all the fun and celebrations, the festive season brings a number of serious risks of which business owners need to be made aware.

Workplace accidents can happen at any time, but Christmas brings with it some additional dangers. Certain activities associated with the festive season run the risk of souring the Christmas cheer.

Work functions

Functions such as Christmas parties may be fun, but they should be managed with sound planning and a robust set of policies.

Drinking alcohol is not an everyday workplace activity and business owners need to be aware that they remain responsible for the safety and conduct of their employees, even after normal business hours.

Parties carry an increased risk of trips and falls, inappropriate behaviour such as sexual harassment, and the danger that people will not return home safely.

If something does happen and there’s a subsequent investigation from the regulator, an employer that is unable to demonstrate they have a documented policy around the service of alcohol and that they’ve adhered to their policy, runs the risk of being found negligent.

The employer could also be exposed to substantial common law damages, which can then impact on their future Workers Compensation premium rates.

Tips to manage work function risks:

–       Serve food and make sure it’s available from the outset. Having alcohol but no food is not the best way to start an event.

–       Ensure soft drink and low-alcohol options such as light beer are available.

–       Assign managers to be responsible for supervising people with instructions to intervene if someone is overdoing it.

–       Provide taxi vouchers to ensure people get home safely.

–       Review your service of alcohol policy and make sure everyone involved in the event is aware it must be adhered to.

Rushing to meet deadlines

The lead-up to Christmas can be an extremely busy period as some businesses work overtime to complete orders or finish projects prior to the holiday period.

Rushing to meet deadlines brings the temptation to cut-corners or not follow safety procedures correctly and GIO Workers Compensation has often seen the tragic consequences of taking this approach.

Whatever the cost of not meeting a particular deadline, the cost of a workplace accident is almost certainly far higher for both the employee and the business.

Temp staff

The use of temporary staff who may be inexperienced or unfamiliar with a business’ safe working practices brings an additional danger of something going wrong.

Employers need to ensure that appropriate workplace inductions are undertaken and temporary staff are performing tasks that match their skills and experience.

Christmas time has its risks but they are manageable. With some common sense and appropriate planning, the festive season can be safe and enjoyable, as it should be.

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Jason Allison

Jason Allison

Jason Allison is Chief of Workers Compensation Portfolio at GIO Workers Compensation.

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