What health and safety issues arise from the annual Christmas jamboree as thousands of office and factory workers go out to celebrate or head off under the influence for works nights out? One tragic case (which did not happen over Christmas) worthy of note is the widely reported case concerning Georgia Varley who fell between a moving train carriage and the station platform in October 2011 at Liverpool's James Street Station.
The 16 year old had been out with friends and was drunk. She had traces of the recreational drug, Mephedrone in her system. She had left the train at the wrong stop and when she realised her friends were still on board she tried to get back on after the doors closed and was making contact with the train carriage when the train guard signalled for the train to move off. The railway guard, Christopher McGee saw her. Her condition was or should have been obvious to him. The judge said he acted with gross negligence because he "merely hoped and assumed" that she would get out of the way when the train began to move. McGee was found guilty of manslaughter (the equivalent of culpable homicide) and was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment.
In a civil action for damages the train operator would be found vicariously liable in civil damages for the negligence of the guard although there might well be a substantial deduction for the contributory negligence of the girl by getting into the condition she was in and placing herself in a position of potential risk.
At common law we have a duty to take reasonable care for those that we can reasonably foresee may be harmed by our actions. This duty of care is towards those who we ought reasonably to be aware could be affected - the so called "neighbour principal".
Owners of pubs and licensed premises where patrons are drinking may require to take additional care to account for their condition in relation to the state of the premises under their duty of care as occupiers. As Christmas approaches employers should apply common sense in holding office parties on the premises. In one incident an employer was liable where an enthusiastic employee plied with alcohol fell and was injured during some impromptu dancing.
A healthy increase in the business of accident and emergency units at this time of year speaks eloquently of the connection between health and safety and alcohol consumption over the festive period.