The wheelbarrow race was not an endorsed activity, however, no-one stopped the race from occurring or suggested the employees shouldn’t go ahead with it. There was no direction from anyone, including any present managers, to stop the race.
One of the wheelbarrows crashed and one of the employees injured her shoulder. She was taken to hospital by another employee and the hospital took x-rays. The hospital told her all was okay, the x-rays were clear and they didn’t provide any pain medication or recommend any follow up treatment or consultation.
This client had their Christmas Party on their break up day in late December and didn’t return to work until late January.
In April, the injured employee advised the business that her shoulder still hurt and that she had been having physiotherapy. The following month, she advised the business that she needed an operation and was lodging a Work Cover Claim. As she didn’t have private health insurance, she thought that was her only choice.
- The hospital claimed the x-ray was clear.
- The employee then went on a period of five weeks leave and we have no information as to what activities were undertaken on holidays that could have caused an injury or exacerbated an initial injury.
- The employee didn’t lodge a claim form until she was advised she needed an operation – some five months after the event.
- The employer provided information on the employer Work Cover Claim form that the employee had contributed to the incident (a specific question on the form), and the employer also denied liability.
The employee’s claim was upheld and Work Cover was granted. The employee didn’t end up having the operation, however had she had it, she would have been in a long recovery program with a return to work plan of reduced duties, which would have put pressure on the business.
- Work Cover incidents are considered ‘no fault’ (the employee could be standing on their head), so regardless of what the employee is doing, if they injure themselves at work, they’re covered by Work Cover.
- Any workplace function is considered an extension of the workplace, even if the function has officially finished.
- Providing alcohol at workplace functions lends itself to employees making irresponsible decisions, which can lead to injury of themselves and others.
Minimise any negative impacts by having a well thought-out risk management plan, so that everyone can relax and enjoy themselves! Here are just a few things you can do before the event:
- Limit the amount of alcohol being provided (unlimited is a big risk!)
- Nominate a couple of people who are responsible for stopping any behaviour that could lead to injuries. They could also be the employee liaison for reporting any concerns.
- Make sure all of your employees understand the expected behaviours. You can email or talk to all staff before the event.
- Ensure that managers understand that Christmas and business celebrations are still work, and therefore, they still have obligations as managers.
- Provide plenty of food and water to lessen the effects of alcohol.
- Instruct the venue that you expect them to apply their Responsible Service of Alcohol to help protect your staff.
- Take steps to ensure your employees have a safe way of getting home and advise them in advance that drink driving is not tolerated.
- Find ways to have fun with your staff without relying on alcohol.
- Advise staff that any incidents or concerns must be reported to the business prior to the business closing for the year, where possible.
Remember, Christmas parties are an opportunity to thank staff and celebrate a successful year. With just some careful event planning and clear employee communication around acceptable behaviour, they can be a great way to wrap up the year in a positive way.
If you need any further advice please contact the friendly HR Staff n’ Stuff team for a chat.
Photo credit: kenteegardin via Visual hunt / CC BY-SA