Loss Control Insights
6 Holiday Party Precautions
Holiday parties have changed as companies recognize the responsibilities associated with a celebration. Good planning and well-thought out policies prevent problems, so take these steps to make your gathering a success while keeping your employees safe.
Choose what—and when—to celebrate
Rather than just celebrate Christmas, make the event inclusive of all seasonal holidays so no employees feel left out. Many companies have moved their annual party to January or February to celebrate the new year and avoid the busy month of December. No matter when the celebration occurs, make everyone feel welcome and don’t make attendance mandatory.
Select the right location
It may be easy and less expensive to hold the party at your office, but that may not be the best choice due to liability issues. If you serve alcohol, the company will have increased liability for handling liquor and for attendees’ safety and security during and after the party.
Renting a location with a liquor license shifts some of the risk to the restaurant or hotel hosting the event. Make sure the location has trained bartenders and food handlers who can monitor individuals’ alcohol consumption, ensure that everyone served alcohol is legal and food is maintained at proper temperatures to prevent illnesses.
When selecting a location, check for good lighting, cleared sidewalks and parking lots, security and adequate emergency exits. You’ll also want to make sure the site is accessible to anyone with a disability, and determine where the nearest medical center is in case of an accident or injury.
Review insurance coverage before the party
As part of your planning process, talk to your insurance agent about whether your coverage needs to be updated. Reviewing your workers’ compensation coverage may be of particular importance because, depending on your state, you may have a claim if an employee slips and falls. If the party is scheduled at your office, make sure your current building and property policy covers any potential damages that might occur. If you choose an off-site location, you may be required to provide proof of insurance in case your attendees damage the facility.
Communicate expectations in advance
Include expectations on the party invitation or in other preparty communications. Provide friendly reminders about alcohol, your company’s verbal and physical harassment policies, and your code of conduct (including social media policies). Also inform employees that if they feel uncomfortable or experience harassment at the party, they should report incidents to management immediately. If you receive a report, take it seriously and follow through with appropriate actions.
Handle alcohol responsibly.
An unlimited open bar at a work party is an invitation for disaster. Offering free access to alcoholic beverages can lead to unintended consequences, including drunken driving, health issues, injuries and inappropriate behavior. These policies can help keep alcohol consumption under control:
- Hand out a fixed number of drink tickets to each employee or only provide a cash bar (when attendees have to pay, they generally consume less)
- Keep the bar open for a limited amount of time and close it 60 to 90 minutes before the party ends
- Offer a generous supply of nonalcoholic beverages, such as sodas, coffee, teas, hot chocolate, juices, health drinks, smoothies or “mocktails”
- Have plenty of food available to help soften the effects of alcohol
- Offer a shuttle, or have a car or taxi service on speed dial
Prevent inappropriate behavior before it occurs
A bit too much alcohol or simply being in a social environment can bring out the wild side of some attendees. To avoid temptation, don’t hang mistletoe or play suggestive music or games. Request managers lead by example and ask them to watch for potential problems so they can intervene if necessary.