Holiday office parties have a reputation for being a little chaotic. Even if booze isn't greasing the wheels, the excitement of impending vacation days is enough to get employees to cut loose. Sometimes, the merriment gets out of hand. Sometimes, it's just a chugging contest until someone almost dies.
Let's back up for a minute. In Utah, a man chugged an entire quart of non-alcoholic eggnog in 12 seconds flat at his holiday office party. Apparently, the eggnog chugging contest is a holiday tradition at his office, and the winner earns a $50 gift certificate to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. The salesman, no stranger to competition, opened up his throat and let the eggnog flow.
In addition to winning the competition, he was admitted to the ICU over a severe case of pneumonia. Turns out, he accidentally poured some eggnog down his windpipe.
You might be shaking your head and saying, "That's what you get," but think about it this way: what if that man was an employee at your small business? Because the accident happened at a work function, your business could be liable for the medical bills.
If you have Workers' Compensation Insurance, your chug-sick employee could make a claim on your policy to cover these bills, and you may have to report the incident to your state's Workers' Comp board. Though this coverage saves you from paying out of pocket, your Workers' Comp policy is like any other insurance policy in that more claims mean higher premiums.
When you think about the situation that way, the real fool of the ordeal comes into focus: it's the people in charge who should know better than to sanction potentially dangerous office activities, even in the spirit of the holidays.
A Supervisor's Role in Preventing Workers' Comp Claims
People are going to do dumb things – it's just a fact of life. But that doesn't mean you're off the hook when you notice employees doing potentially dangerous stuff. In fact, your business is responsible for ensuring employees have a safe work environment.
- Keeping your business up to OSHA standards to reduce the chance of employee injuries. Brush up on your responsibilities. Ensure that even if you overhaul the office for a festive event, walkways are clear, items are stored properly, and employees aren't engaging in potentially dangerous activities (e.g., climbing ladders).
- Rejecting potentially dangerous team-building activities. You'd be surprised how many injuries a game of kickball can cause.
- Planning office activities in advance. If you want to throw an office party or outing, great! These events can raise employee morale and foster a sense of community in your workplace. But be sure to plan activities in advance so that you have time to properly assess the risks. Office karaoke? Sure – a few flat notes are a safer bet than a business kayaking trip.
In short, one of the easiest ways to prevent workplace accidents and subsequent Workers' Compensation claims is to be proactive.
4 Things You Can Do When the Office Party Gets Out of Hand
If things start to get a little wild, be sure to…
- Rely on an additional event supervisor. If you have a smaller office, you may not think you need another pair of eyes to help you monitor the event. But when people start milling around and you get caught up in a conversation, it can be hard to stay vigilant. So why not enlist a supervisor's help before the party gets underway? You can ask an employee to volunteer or appoint someone you trust. Give the supervisor authority to intervene when the party gets rowdy.
- Step in. If you see an impromptu chugging contest in the works, be sure to shut it down before someone ends up in the hospital on your business's dime.
- Direct the group toward another activity. If you spot employees attempting a marshmallow-eating contest, why not point them toward the lively game of charades happening in the conference room?
- Send the rabble-rouser home. If a particular employee is acting out of hand and refuses to settle down when you or the event supervisor asks, remember that you can request the employee to leave. If they've had too much to drink, arrange for a cab to take the employee home.
For more tips on preventing work accidents, read, "How to Prevent Workers’ Comp Claims."