The holiday party season is here. If you are getting ready to host festivities at your home or setting up an event for work, make sure that your planning goes beyond the menu and the music. You need to think about safety as well.
Our personal injury law firm would like you to keep the following in mind in order to avoid accidents that could spoil the merriment and potentially lead to serious liability issues:
- Make sure the party site is secure.
When you invite guests to your home for a party, you need to make sure that your property is safe from hazards. For instance, you should take these steps to minimize or eliminate risks of falls:
- Clear ice from your driveway, walkway, porch, deck or any area outdoors where people will be walking
- Clean up leaves around the home so guests don’t trip over any objects or fall into holes that the leaves may obscure
- Make sure your property is well lit inside and outside
- Check your steps, stairs and handrails to ensure they are in good condition.
It is a good idea, too, to make clear where guests are allowed to be inside the home or around the property. For instance, if there is a door leading to a basement or a garage where you don’t want young guests to wander, keep it locked.
If you are throwing an office party at an off-site location, you should check out the venue first to make sure it is safe or to at least get an understanding of possible risks. You should communicate those risks to employees in advance.
- Pay attention to food safety.
Chips, dips, meatballs, cheeseballs, cookies, cakes, egg nog, punch: These are all items you commonly see at holiday parties. If you are the one serving the food at your home or office party, make sure it is safe to eat.
Check out this Harvard Medical School article on the risks of food poisoning at holiday parties. It contains lots of helpful information and tips on how to avoid such a disaster.
In particular, the article warns against allowing food to sit out for more than two hours if you are serving it in a buffet. To avoid this risk, the article suggests setting out the food in small portions and washing all dishes before you reuse them.
You should also pay attention to food allergies your guests may have. As the Mayo Clinic points out, between 6 to 8 percent of children under age 3 and around 3 percent of adults suffer from these allergies.
Even though the risk of a guest suffering from an allergic reaction to your food is relatively small, you may want to call attention to ingredients in some foods that guests may not otherwise know about. For instance, many cookies or treats contain peanuts that cannot be seen at a first glance.
- If you serve alcohol, do so with caution.
If you decide to serve alcohol at your home or office holiday party, you have to be realistic about the risks that come with that decision.
First, consider the potential liability if one of your guests becomes inebriated, drives away and causes a crash. Could you face a lawsuit?
No, if the driver is an adult. Virginia is one of the few states without a “social host liability” law that allows a person to be sued for serving alcohol to a person who goes on to cause a drunk driving accident.
However, if the driver is a minor, the answer could be, yes. Under Virginia law, you could be sued if that minor goes on to cause a crash after you knowingly allowed the minor to consume alcohol at your party. (You could also face criminal charges!)
With that in mind, please consider following these tips:
- Take reasonable steps to ensure that no underage people (under age 21) consume alcohol at your party. If you hire a vendor to cater the party and serve alcohol, make sure that vendor follows a policy of checking IDs.
- Don’t let your guests drive after drinking. Ask them to use a designated driver or to call for a sober friend or family member to take them home. You should also ask them to call a taxi. Check out this Yellow Pages list of Richmond-area cabs. You may want to print out a list and post it in different places at the party site.
- Don’t let your guests walk home if they have been drinking. That is not a safe alternative to driving.
When alcohol is consumed at a party, there are other risks to consider. If guests consume too much, they could suffer falls, get into fights or become ill from alcohol poisoning. Do your best to keep consumption safe and moderate.
The bottom line is that holiday parties can be both fun and safe. You simply have to make safety an important part in your planning and not treat it as an afterthought.