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27th November 2019

A Sober Reminder For The Festive Period

christmas tree with red and gold baubles

It’s less than a month until Christmas and the office parties are about to start coming thick and fast. So it’s time to put plans in place to ensure that your workforce doesn’t take the idea too literally.

As we move into December it’s nearly the “season to be jolly’, and so without sounding like the fun police, this blog explains how you can make sure your employees remain safe over the festive season.

What’s the Issue?

Alcohol consumption goes beyond the obvious issues of drunkenness at work. Not only should staff avoid consuming alcohol while on the job, but it’s also more likely and therefore more important to ensure that they don’t arrive at work while still under the influence from the night before.

Even a small amount of alcohol in the system has the potential for staff to act differently: reactions may become slower, co-ordination reduced and judgement impaired. None of this makes for a safe working environment, especially when people are using machinery or operating transport.

In addition, hungover staff turning up with a sore head, red eyes, and coffee in hand can have short tempers or other unpleasant behaviour, and it’s unfair to put staff in an uncomfortable position of this nature while in the workplace.

How to Avoid the Problem

Make it abundantly clear to anyone completing safety-critical operations, e.g. driving or operating machinery, that they must not have any alcohol in their system. This can easily be done by reinforcing your policy through a toolbox talk, or by simply using our E-learning training session on this subject.

If staff are unsure how much they’re able to drink the night before, issue them with guidance explaining how long alcohol stays in the bloodstream, as above suitable training will suffice to ensure staff have this message brought to their attention.

Encourage workers to report to management if they have reason to believe a colleague is under the influence of alcohol. During training explain that it’s in everyone’s interests to do so.

If you have reason to believe that a member of staff is under the influence of alcohol, take them to one side and calmly challenge them. There is no possible way of reducing the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream quickly. So if you remain concerned just send them home – but obviously make sure they’re not driving.

No tolerance

Your policy on alcohol needs to be made clear regardless of your type of business. Even in a low-risk environment, e.g. an office, employees need to travel to work and be able to carry out their duties.

If not already done so, ensure that in your terms and conditions of employment, include a general requirement to comply with the company’s health and safety policies – including drug and alcohol. This will make it a disciplinary offence if staff ignore your requirements.

Party time

When organising Company Christmas functions ensure that your rules on alcohol are consistent with your usual policy. If you make an exception you’ll find it difficult to enforce your requirements at other times.

Some practical planning of staff parties can avoid a number of issues arising, for example, if a staff party is on the agenda, think about the timing to reduce the risk of staff being under the influence at work. A mid-week party could well result in inebriated staff coming to work the next day. If you can’t avoid bad timing for all staff state upfront that your usual rules on alcohol apply so that staff expectations are managed.

Christmas parties are about being social and attending because that’s important from the employer’s perspective, but it’s knowing the difference between what’s appropriate and what’s not that can help keep staff out of trouble.

Appoint Lighthouse As Your Health & Safety Competent Person

The competent person role does not have to be fulfilled internally within every company. You can, therefore, outsource the appointment to a contractor or consultancy with the necessary qualifications and experience.

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