Holiday season is upon us and the calendar is already peppered with work-related social events. Many organizations will hold a party for staff. Some employees will be invited to other companies’ events too. Many people will attend private functions and gatherings. Most of these celebratory lunches, dinners and dances contain a common hazard: alcohol. 

Organizations hosting events can become liable as “social hosts” for the havoc caused by guests who over-indulge and then have car accidents. Experienced drinkers will find they can’t consume as much as they thought; inexperienced drinkers will find out how easy it is to get drunk. Even if they never drive, people can do or say things under the influence that they (and possibly their employer) will regret on Monday.

Aside from being the right thing to do, managing alcohol consumption is also the smart way to minimize risks. This year, as in the past, we urge employers to take some common sense measures to protect their people from having “too happy” a holiday party:

  • Hold the event at a licensed facility which has insurance, such as a hotel or restaurant.
  • If possible, let employees bring their spouses or a friend (the “plus one”). What it costs you in an extra dinner may save you a great deal more.
  • Limit the number of free drinks provided to people. You might transition to a cash bar after dinner, for example.
  • Try to deter “ticket sharing”, where drinkers collect unused drink tickets from others so they can really load up.
  • Where there is booze, make sure there is food.
  • Ensure there is a large supply of non-alcoholic drinks – they often run out. Make them prominently available later in the evening.
  • Issue a customary reminder to people about being careful.
  • Encourage or arrange for designated drivers among party-goers and reward this.
  • Provide cab chits –  make it easy to get home safe.
  • Share information about free ride services in your community.
  • Consider offering accomodations or negotiating a reduced-rate hotel price for your staff.
  • Tell the bar or servers not to over-serve – it’s the law in many jurisdictions.
  • Ask everyone to keep an eye out for intoxicated colleagues, so that they might intervene or alert a manager if someone under the influence is about to get in their car.
  • If your people are attending a client or supplier holiday party, repeat safety reminders and push hard to ensure they travel by cab or with a designated driver.

Everyone at your workplace has at least one reason to get home safe and sound. Make sure they do.