As the office party season gets into full swing, RoSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) and the TUC have joined forces to make sure that employees hear only jingle bells, and not alarm bells, this Christmas.
If, like many employers, you end up hosting a Christmas party at work, they warn of risks that you need to be aware of in a checklist that includes suggestions about how to avoid injuries, breakages, fires, food poisoning, and worse.
Roger Bibbings, RoSPA occupational safety adviser, said: "We are not being party poopers. Some sensible safety precautions will allow people to have a great office celebration without having to call in the emergency services."
Frances O'Grady, TUC deputy general secretary, said: "There won't be much Christmas cheer in your workplace if your winter wonderland turns out to be a danger zone.
"Some simple precautions can make sure your party goes off with a bang, instead of a crash."
Advice from the TUC and RoSPA checklist includes:
- Make sure that you and other party organisers know what the late night security arrangements for your office are. Some offices may lock doors and stairwells at night, which could cut off an emergency escape.
- Office furniture is not designed to be as sturdy as the furniture in your local pub, so dancing on desks could do them – and you – a lot of damage.
- Keep fresh party food in a fridge, do not leave it out in a hot office all day. Prawn vol-au-vent poisoning could see half your colleagues off sick until the New Year.
- Definite "no-nos" are candles, flaming puddings, and smoking. Office fire alarms are generally placed everywhere and are very sensitive to all smoke, not just fires.
- It might be best to leave out the mistletoe. You do not want to have staff taking sexual harassment cases against one another after "a bit of fun" at a party turns into a serious workplace issue. If a party is clearly a works party though, it is likely that any harassment would be covered by sexual harassment at work rules.
Party planners can download the full checklist at www.worksmart.org.uk/officeparty
Personnel Today has conducted some exclusive research on office Christmas party nightmares. For the full details, see next week's issue (published 14 December).