Work Related Event Safety Considerations

As the festive season approaches, it’s important for employers across Australia to remember that workplace celebrations and work related events, while festive, come with their own set of risks and responsibilities. Workplace injuries during office parties are not uncommon, and it’s crucial for employers to understand when they might be liable for workers’ compensation and common law damages for injuries sustained during these events.

The festive season often marks the end of the work year and provides an opportunity for staff to relax, wind down and celebrate their successes. However, the mix of celebration (interfaced with an inherent higher risk appetite) and complacency can lead to injuries from failure to manage risks associated with work related events. Understanding how workers’ compensation legislation applies to end-of-year functions is not only essential for employers but also important for all employees.

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For example, under Section 32(1) of the Queensland Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld), an injury is considered work-related if it arises out of, or in the course of, employment and if the employment is a significant contributing factor. The determination of whether an injury is work-related depends on the specific circumstances of each case.

An injury is personal injury arising out of, or in the course of, employment if the employment is a significant contributing factor to the injury.

For instance, in the case of Youngblutt v Workers’ Compensation Regulator [2019], an employee of the Queensland Police Service (QPS) suffered a psychiatric injury due to inappropriate behaviour at a QPS-organised Christmas party. The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) ruled that the party was incidental to the employee’s work since the employer had encouraged attendance.

However, not all cases result in employer liability. In Packer v Tall Ships Sailing Cruises Aust P/L & Anor [2014], the employer was not held liable for an assault on an employee at a Christmas party, as the incident involved individuals not employed by the company. This highlights that employers are not always responsible for the actions of non-employees at such events.

Similarly, in the case involving Fraser Coast Free Range Pty Ltd, the QIRC held that an employee’s injuries at a company-organised Christmas party were work-related, as the event was meant to thank employees and promote good relationships.

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In contrast, in the case of Australian Leisure & Hospitality Group Pty Ltd v Simon Blackwood & Campbell [2014], the QIRC found that a worker who died from injuries sustained while diving into a river during a Christmas party was not in the course of employment, as her actions were considered a personal frolic.

These cases illustrate the nuances in determining employer liability when a matter is before the court. Employers should ensure they have adequate risk management policies and risk assessments for managing foreseeable risks at social events. If a worker engages in activities far removed from the event, constituting a personal frolic, employers are less likely to be held liable. As the festive season nears, it’s crucial for organisations to revisit their policies and prepare adequately for the celebrations ahead.

Work-related Events Checklist

Creating a checklist for work-related events, particularly during the festive season, is an excellent way to ensure both fun and safety of the event. Here’s  Safetysure’s practical guide for employers to manage risks and responsibilities:

Pre-Event Planning

1. Event Policy Review

Update and circulate your company’s policy on work-related social events, highlighting expectations around behaviour and conduct.

2. Venue Assessment

Choose a safe and appropriate venue. Ensure it meets all necessary safety standards and is accessible to all employees. Consider asking the venue provider if they have a safety plan in place and what key risks exist at the facility

3. Risk Assessment

Yes we know its our old chestnut but conducting a risk assessment to identify potential hazards (e.g., trip hazards, fire safety, overindulgence in alcohol) and plan how to mitigate them should be part of your process.

4. Alcohol Management

We have all been to events that ultimately end in disaster for some people. Decide on the alcohol policy – will it be served, and if so, how will consumption be controlled? Consider options like drink tokens or a limited bar service.

5. Transport Arrangements

Organise safe transportation options for attendees, such as designated drivers, taxi services, or arranging buses to and from the event.

6. Food and Dietary Requirements

Ensure a variety of food is available, and cater to different dietary needs and preferences. You don’t want your event to end in an ambulance call for a food related allergy.

7. Emergency Plan

Have a clear plan for emergencies, including first aid arrangements and a point of contact for any issues that arise.

During the Event

8. Supervision and Monitoring

Assign responsible staff members to monitor the event, ensuring policies are adhered to and intervening if necessary.

9. Communication

Remind attendees of the key policies and emergency procedures at the start of the event.

10. Inclusivity

Encourage an inclusive environment where all employees feel welcome and valued.

11. Responsible Service of Alcohol

Ensure that alcohol, if served, is done so responsibly and by trained staff.

Post-Event Follow-Up

12. Feedback Collection

Gather feedback from attendees to learn what worked well and what could be improved for future events.

13. Incident Review

Review any incidents that occurred and determine if policy changes are necessary to prevent future occurrences.

14. Thank You Note

Send out a thank you message to all attendees, reinforcing positive aspects of the event and any important reminders post-event.

Additional Considerations For Work Related Events

Insurance –  Always verify that your insurance covers work-related events. You may need to consider additional cover for specific events.
Diverse Celebrations –  Recognise that not everyone may celebrate the same holidays; consider inclusivity in planning.

If you need assistance in updating your policy or need specific advice or investigations on a specific event, call Safetysure on 1300 087 888.

By |2023-12-14T14:31:34+09:00December 14th, 2023|Safety Advice|0 Comments

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