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How To Manage Holiday Party Risk (And Still Have Fun!)

Posted in: Business Operations, Employee Health and Safety, Human Resources, Insurance Policy Information, Risk Mitigation

Posted on: by VGMInsBlogger

How to Manage Holiday Party Risk

It’s the holiday season once again; a time for gatherings and celebrations. If yours is like most businesses, fun-filled holiday events are on your calendar. The success of your events is measured in many ways, and the safety of your guests and employees is no doubt at the top of the list.

Holding special events calls for increased diligence and planning. Not planning ahead can have a significant impact on your company’s reputation and financial well-being. While there’s no way to foresee all risks that could arise, as many “what if” situations as possible should be identified and what measures will be taken to mitigate risks should be determined.

Your employees are the most important key to holding successful events. We suggest you form special event teams of employees to plan, organize, and manage the events. The number of team members should be determined by the size of the events and types of activities.

Any good planning process requires risk assessment, safety planning, and risk management to ensure your events and participants are as safe as possible. In other words, your special event teams should identify potential risks, determine the best procedures within the guidelines of all applicable laws and statutes to eliminate or control those risks, and execute those procedures safely.

Risk Assessment

The purpose of risk assessment is to identify potential harmful hazards and assess the risks that could develop from those hazards.

A hazard is anything that has the potential to harm people: a property, a substance, a condition, a situation, a person, or an activity. Risk is the likelihood that harm occurs and the extent of that harm. In a risk assessment, therefore, risk should indicate the likelihood that harm will occur and its severity.

Major risks associated with special events include:

  • Injury to a guest or employee
  • Operating legally
  • Damaging your organization’s reputation if situations are not handled well
  • Financial challenges from unforeseen circumstances, such as inclement weather
  • Event cancellation

Extra precaution should be taken if any of the following are involved:

  • Minors, including children, attend
  • Hazardous activities are planned
  • Gambling takes place
  • Large crowds are anticipated
  • Alcohol will be served

Safety Planning/Risk Management
When the type and level of risks have been identified, your special event teams can then develop safety plans that include determining the best methods to eliminate or control those risks, and how you plan to execute those methods safely.

Although by no means an exhaustive list, below are some examples of items you should consider when developing your plan:

  • When: Date, opening and closing times, weekday vs. weekend, daytime vs. night
  • Where: On company property vs. off-site, weather conditions (indoor vs. outdoor), contingency plan
  • Who: Employees-only, employee-guest, children/minors, disabled persons

Typically holiday festivities attract larger crowds than other events. Regardless of the number of expected attendees, however, the safety of everyone should remain your top priority. Below are examples of other issues to consider:

Parking: If you’re planning to provide car parking, you should arrange for designated marshals to guide the drivers and provide them with flashlights and high-visibility vests so they can be seen easily. Vehicles should be routed away from all pedestrian areas where possible. Check for any slip and fall hazards if you use a nontraditional parking area.

Electrical wiring: If your events will feature special lighting and/or sound equipment, all cables and wiring should be routed away from public areas. If that isn’t possible, they should be appropriately covered. All wiring should be installed and tested by trained, competent persons.

Fire safety: Consider the following: escape routes in case of fire, fire risks such as a kitchen or food heating elements, fire-fighting equipment, and use of materials that burn easily.

Children’s activities: If youngsters will be attending your holiday events, and if there will be activities specifically for them, you will want to have an appropriate number of adults supervising to eliminate or at least minimize the possibility of injuries.

A Special Word About Serving Alcohol

According to the Insurance Information Institute, liquor liability exposure is not limited to those whose primary business is the sale of alcoholic beverages. Most states currently have social host statutes or common law that holds private event hosts liable for the actions of their guests. You are considered a social host if you provide alcohol to individuals in a non-commercial manner. It is important to know the law in your jurisdiction and to take the appropriate steps to control your risk. You should also review your organization’s current general liability insurance policy to determine your coverage in social-host situations.

To promote safety and sobriety of your guests and employees, review the following recommended control measures:

  • You should have controls in place that ensure those who are under age and those who are intoxicated are not served alcohol.
  • Always serve food with alcohol. Serve more food and non-alcoholic beverages toward the end of your events, and set a “last call” an hour before the events are over to reduce the likelihood of intoxicated attendees getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.
  • Place table tents at each bar reminding everyone to drink responsibly.
  • If you are charging for alcohol, don’t price it too low, as it encourages over-consumption.
  • Offer a range of low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks at no charge.
  • Require servers to measure spirits.
  • Never raffle alcohol or hold contests that involve buying or drinking alcohol.
  • Entice attendees to take advantage of safe transportation options by subsidizing taxis/Uber/Lyft or promoting a designated driver program.
  • If your events feature a program or speakers, schedule it for after dinner and drinks are served.


Your holiday events should be fun everyone – your guests and employees. Practicing good risk assessment, safety planning, and risk management in advance of the events is simply a matter of anticipation and organization and can help mitigate risk and protect your business. As a business owner or manager, understanding the exposures your business has allows you to have an educated discussion with your insurance agent or broker who can assist you in developing a risk management plan that keeps safety at the center of your company’s holiday events.

Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy and safe holiday season from the team at VGM Insurance!

For more information about managing risk for your business, contact our team any time at info@vgminsurance.com or 800-362-3363.


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