If you’re serving liquor at your business event, here are some things you need to know.

October 15th, 2014

With the holiday season fast-approaching, we thought it would be a good reminder to review risk control methods that may help to reduce your company’s exposure to liability. And although traditionally liquor liability is thought of as an exposure that only restaurants, bars, and pubs need worry about, businesses that host functions where liquor is served can also be exposed to the same liability.

Recent court cases in Canada have established that as an employer hosting a party where alcohol is served, you have a “duty of care” for the safety of your employees and attendees (this also applies to off-site activities such as social functions.)

Below are some risk control methods to help reduce a company’s exposure to liability:

• Establish company policy that governs employee conduct at social events and ensure your employees are made aware of these policies. This should reflect any social event whether you’re hosting the event or your employee is representing the company at another event.
• Remind employees that they should behave and act responsible at all times, not to over indulge, set a limit, and establish how they will get home if they have too much to drink.

• Before the event if people intend to drink and how they will get home. Will they need a taxi? Do they have a designated driver? Is there someone they will call at the end of the night for a pick up? If so, record their name and number so you can call if you have to.

At company events you should observe the following:

• Events should take place at non-company locations and after business hours.
• Employers hosting a party should use professional service companies to bring and serve the liquor. Third party companies should also be requested to provide proof of insurance before the event.
• Servers should have their liquor training certification (e.g.: ProServe)
• No one should be served to the point where they are intoxicated.
• Food & Non-alcoholic beverages should be available during the entire event.
• Employers should avoid “open bars”. Limit how much alcohol is served, by offering a limited number of drink tickets.
• Close the bar a couple of hours before the end of the event.

After the party your obligation to the employees and guest safety is not over.

• Encourage taxi use, set up designated drivers, and/or provide vouchers for cab companies to take your guests home.
• If you must, book rooms for your staff to sleep in an adjoining hotel if your event is held at one.
• If an intoxicated person insists on driving, take their keys away from them. If this doesn’t work and they get themselves into the driver seat, you must report this to local police. In the end you must try everything reasonable. If this person drives and injures or kills someone, after you failed to do everything reasonable, your company can be held liable.

Throughout the course of a year there are many holidays and other work related social functions; some events serve liquor and others do not, when you find that your company is the host of such an event, than follow the above listed suggestions, preplan your event, spread the risk to professional services that are familiar with serving liquor, and put checks in place to monitor guests through the course of the function to help ensure a safe and happy event.

Do you have host liquor liability insurance? Check with your broker and have them review your insurance policy.

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