Planning the Christmas party safely

Wednesday November 10, 2021

Last Christmas was not exactly festive. Having a few drinks over Zoom is all well and good, but it’s no substitute for a real office party. Tentatively, things are looking brighter this year, although that could change. A Christmas party is a great way for everyone to unwind, but it’s still important to consider the safety and well-being of your staff.  

A little research reveals an array of Christmas related injuries from the mundane to the bizarre. Seriously, how can someone inhale a drawing pin when putting up the decorations! 

Here are a few things to bear in mind when planning a festive celebration at work: 

Carry out a risk assessment 

As the event organiser, it is your duty to carry out a risk assessment before the party. Highlight any potential hazards and come up with ways to avoid or reduce them. It’s a good idea to write this down so that you can refer back to it in the event of an accident. 

Put someone in charge 

Your risk assessment should also nominate someone to monitor health and safety at the party. You can do this yourself, or delegate it to an employee. It will be this person’s job to look out for any developing hazards or ‘horseplay’ as the night wears on. Just remember to have fun too! 

Make first aid provisions 

Planning a party is a good excuse to check your first aid provisions. Restock any depleted first aid kits and have at least one first aid trained employee present at the event.  

Beware of fire and trip hazards 

Organising a party will usually mean rearranging the layout of the office. When moving desks and other large items of furniture, check that they are not blocking fire exits. If you’re moving electrical equipment, be sure to unplug it and tuck away any loose wires.  

As the party gets underway, other hazards may appear. Keep an eye on the floor and clear away any litter or discarded items. Make sure you also have a mop and a wet floor sign on hand in case of spilled drinks.  

Encourage responsible drinking 

There’s nothing wrong with your employees having a few drinks at Christmas if they choose, but excessive alcohol consumption can cause big problems. We’re not just talking about embarrassing behaviour but impaired coordination makes people less aware of their surroundings, increasing the risk of an accidental injury. 

The best way to avoid this is to set some boundaries beforehand. Remind colleagues that they are still at work, and that excessive drinking is not appropriate. Setting up some activities can help to shift the focus of the party away from drinking. It’s also a good idea to provide plenty of food and a range of non-alcoholic beverages, especially as some people will not want to drink anyway, or may be under-age.  

Make sure everyone gets home safely 

An important consideration is to ensure that everyone has the means to get home safely. You could: 

  • Remind colleagues in advance that they need to make travel arrangements  
  • Send a clear message that drinking and driving is never acceptable 
  • Make sure that groups sharing lifts have a designated driver 
  • Encourage people to walk home together  
  • Make sure the party finishes before public transport stops running
  • Leave some local taxi numbers around the office  

Have a safe and merry Christmas! 

It can be hard to strike the right balance between fun and safety. With a little preparation though, you can give your employees the celebration they deserve – as long as lockdown restrictions are not reimposed. Of course, you may choose to go to a venue such as a restaurant for the party, rather than host it yourself. Most of the above advice is still relevant for that scenario too.  

If you have any questions or want help preparing a risk assessment for a major celebration, contact your local Health & Safety Dept for help. 

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