With the festive season upon us, many employers will be hanging up decorations in the office, or even planning workplace parties or games with the hope of spreading some festive cheer. But our team are reminding employers to be wary of health and safety amidst the festivities.

Statistics from the NHS suggest that as many as 80,000 Britons find themselves in hospital due to a ‘Christmas-related incident’ every year – and employers have a certain responsibility in and around the office, even when hanging up Christmas decorations.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, a risk assessment should be carried out prior to hanging up any Christmas decorations in or around a workplace.

In some cases, should an incident occur, insurance brokers may claim that decorations breach health and safety rules – and therefore invalidate insurance. This problem can also arise if electrical decorations such as Christmas or fairy lights have not been PAT tested, as an insurer may not cover damage caused by untested electrical items.

If your business is hosting games or a Christmas party in-house, it is advised to sensibly ensure that decorations, cables and the like are not carelessly placed in corridors or anywhere else which may cause people to trip. Outside of the building, it is also important to take care of any potential ‘slip’ hazards, such as ice or snow.

The entrances to the business premises will need to be properly lit after dark and the employer will need to ensure that they have public liability insurance in place.

If providing alcohol, employers have a responsibility not to allow their staff access to a free bar – and consideration must be taken for some team members who may not drink due to religious or other beliefs.

Employers also need to take into account the fact that some members of staff may not celebrate Christmas and may find certain ‘jokes’ offensive. Any entertainment provided or games played should be appropriate and inoffensive.

Put simply, both employers and employees alike need to remember that the same rules which apply in the workplace also extend to office parties and games.