The office Christmas party – a chance to celebrate a year’s work well done and enjoy an evening of festive frivolity with your colleagues. However, while it’s a time for drinking, dancing and merrymaking, there’s also the potential for accidents.

I’m not about to suggest a clamp down on Christmas cheer, but it’s worth considering the potential risks to throwing a client office party if you don’t want to wake up to a PL1 form, as well as a hangover, the following morning.

Public liability claims can be a significant outlay, particularly for small businesses who might not be able to afford legal representation. According to findings by the Health and Safety Executive, slips and trips make up 50% of all reported accidents to members of the public that happen in workplaces, costing employers £512 million annually.

Don’t ignore potential hazards

The National Health Service revealed that more than 80,000 people require hospital treatment every year specifically for falls, cuts and burns over the Christmas period. A lot of these injuries can be avoided by checking for the common hazards of party venues. So when organising your Christmas party you should ask yourself:

  • will my guests arrive into a well-lit and well-kept entrance?
  • are there any slip hazards, like ice, snow, spilled drinks or leaks?
  • is the stairwell safe and well lit?
  • is the floor in a good condition? Eg. There are no loose tiles or raised carpets that could cause trips.
  • are there any party decorations or exposed cables that people could trip over?
  • do any of my decorations pose a fire risk?

To help you remember what to look out for, you could try reciting the three F’s – fires, falls and fairy lights. All three are potential dangers over the Christmas and New Year period, according to a report by the NHS.

Know when you’re liable

While ensuring your party venue is clear of hazards is important, it’s not the only way you could be deemed liable for injury.

If one of your employees manages to injure one of your party guests, then the liability for this injury could also pass to you. This could easily happen, particularly at a Christmas party when employees and clients are more likely to have a drink and a dance. One mistimed spin or a bump into other revellers, and your guests could find they’ve hurt more than their pride.

Get your paperwork in order

Unfortunately, if you take your employees out of the office this Christmas, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s less risk to them or liability for you.

If there’s a defect with the venue then the liability may rest with the venue manager. However, if you knew of a risk and failed to address it, then you could be liable for any injury or property damage as a result.

So, if you’re thinking of taking your guests out of the office for the Christmas party this year, event manager, Gemma Duport, warns there’s a few things you need to check first.

“If you’re planning an event outside your office, you’ll need to get hold of the venue’s public liability insurance certificate before you arrange anything else and take a close look at the date it expires. If it’s no longer valid at the time of your event then you won’t be insured. This means you’ll have to chase up venue managers for a renewed certificate.”

Build a better business with the right cover

Unfortunately, it’s just a fact of life that accidents do happen, but you can avoid significant pay outs if you have the right amount of insurance in place.

Even if you’re not hosting a Christmas party this year, it’s a good idea to sort out the appropriate public liability cover for the year ahead, particularly if you think your business could struggle to stay afloat if faced with the legal expense associated with a claim.

And it’s not just about saving money. Putting public liability insurance in place shows your clients that their safety is important to you, which can help contribute to better business relationships.

So you can relax this winter, safe in the knowledge that while accidents do happen, a claim isn’t going to spoil your Christmas.

Need further information? Visit our article on what is public liability insurance.