Readers Blog: Wisconsin Insurance Solutions

Simple Tips to enjoy your Holiday Parties and control potential liability

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By: Tony Matera / twitter @WI_InsSolutions

The winter jackets are out, the holiday music is playing, the lights are hung, the trees are decorated it is the holiday season! As your business looks to finish the year strong and celebrate with co-workers the close of 2011 remember to be safe.

For those who know me best they can vouch I haven't found a social event I haven't enjoyed. But as the insurance guy this is my attempt at not being the Grinch while helping ensure your parties are safe and fun for everyone, including your HR director.

With holiday parties comes a wide array of potential exposures, the most common are; damage to rented property (offsite parties), harassment (Employment Practice Liability), and of course drinking and driving.

The U.S. Department of Labor published a list of 10 safety tips for your office holiday party planners to use to help make your holiday festivities run smoothly.

  1. Be honest with employees. Make sure your employees know your workplace substance abuse and sexual harassment policies and that these policies are to be followed not just in the office, but at any office social function.
  2. Post the policy. Use every communication vehicle you have available to ensure employees know company policies. Prior to an office party, use break room bulletin boards and office e-mails to communicate policies and concerns.
  3. Reinvent the office party concept. Why have the typical office party? Consider something new like an indoor carnival, group outing to a performance/event or a volunteer activity with a local charity.
  4. Make sure employees know when to say when. If you do serve alcohol at an office event, make sure all employees know they are welcome to attend and have a good time, but they are expected to act responsibly. Use commercial bartenders who are trained in how to identify and handle intoxicated individuals. Rather than having an open bar, consider handing out a limited number of drink tickets.
  5. Make it the office party of choice. Ensure that there are plenty of nonalcoholic beverages available.
  6. Eat ... and be merry! Avoid serving lots of salty, greasy or sweet foods that tend to make people thirsty. Serve foods rich in starch and protein - they stay in the stomach longer and slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.
  7. Designate party managers. Remind all managers that even at the office party, they need to enforce the company's policies.
  8. Arrange alternative transportation. Anticipate the need for alternative transportation for partygoers and make special transportation arrangements in advance of the party. Encourage all employees to make use of the alternative transportation if they consume alcohol.
  9. Serve none for the road. Stop serving alcohol well before the party officially ends.
  10. Keep your party governed by social host laws. To this end, you should never require employees to attend a party. You should also try not to conduct business at the party. Try to hold the party off site, away from the office.

The main concern I hear from my clients is alcohol. The easiest solution of course is not to serve at all. But this decision should be based on the culture in your office and whether the party is on-site or offsite.

An often overlooked but common sense tip other than those listed earlier is if you are serving consider inviting spouses to attend your party. Theoretically, inviting spouses tends to make your event more formal, and more tame.

As always if you have any questions you should contact your insurance agent to ask;

  • You have proper coverage for workers' compensation, property damage and bodily injury claims.
  • Your caterer/ bartender is properly licensed and insured, and can provide proof of insurance.

Enjoying the holidays with friends, family and co-workers is always reason to celebrate, just remember a little bit of planning can ensure everyone's safety and enjoyment!

Happy Holidays!

Yes, never miss an opportunity to show off Vito (the dog).

Tony Matera is a licensed independent insurance advisor with Ansay and Associates out of Port Washington WI. And is the Servicing Agent for ONMILWAUKEE.COM For more information contact him at tony.matera@pw.ansay.com or call directly at 262-376-3248 www.linkedin.com/in/TONYMATERA

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