The new Land Transport Amendment Act (2) 2014 reduces drink driving limits by almost half for adult drivers aged over 20, from current levels of 400 micrograms (mcg) of alcohol per litre of breath to 250mcg. This means there are new levels of responsibility to employers when alcohol is provided for staff celebrations, after work drinks and Christmas parties etc.
This combined with the new tougher Health and Safety Reform Bill (due in 2015) means employers could be held liable if any guests or employees are harmed as a result of that alcohol being provided.
The new regulations will require business owners, managers and directors who have an active and influential control over the business to know and be aware of all the operational risks and hazards and how they are being managed. In the case of alcohol provision, this means that all duty holders will need to clearly identify all employees health and safety responsibilities in relation to serving and consuming alcohol, generate appropriate policies for the organisation and ensure all staff clearly understand the policies and procedures, their implementation and management.
Now is the time to make new decisions and awareness around alcohol and its distribution and management in your business environment whether you are an owner, director or manager. Even though the new Health and Safety regulations will not take affect for a few months, pre-Christmas this year is a good time to review and ensure more robust practices are in place before the “Silly Season” creates issues for you as the owner or manager and your business reputation.
It also pays to be aware of the effects of alcohol on driving incidents and impairments with age of employees and guests.
The following points have been suggested by Katherine Percy, Chief Executive at Workbase for employers to consider in preparation:
- Review policies to make sure that any stated alcohol limits are in keeping with the new law’s requirements.
- Understand the business’s health and safety obligations in relation to alcohol and put steps in place to close any gaps.
- Make employees aware of the new law. Educate them about safe drinking, including that blood alcohol levels continue to rise for up to two hours after drinking stops.
- Advise people about the dangers of using the number of drinks consumed as a drink-driving limit guideline. There are many variables, including alcohol strengths differing widely between types of beverages. Furthermore, pour sizes can differ, which makes it difficult to accurately judge alcohol consumption. For example, a standard glass of wine is 100 ml but people typically pour more and still regard that as “one” glass.
- Educate employees that each person’s individual factors (e.g. body weight, health conditions, medications, metabolism, etc.) also significantly affect their body’s alcohol absorption rates.
- Put host responsibility practices in place, including processes for identifying people who are drinking too much and stopping further alcohol from becoming available to them.
- Always provide substantial food when alcohol is served, to slow down alcohol absorption and consumption (peanuts and crisps are not enough). Provide a choice of interesting, adult-appropriate non-alcoholic options (think beyond fizzy drink and orange juice!).
- Encourage people to plan ahead and organise a ride home if they are likely to be drinking. Alternatively, provide taxi chits or other transport options.
- Ms Percy says some organisations try to remove the guesswork by providing breath-testing at functions. This is a double-edged sword because although it can alert someone if they are over the limit, it can also serve to provide a ‘goal’ for people to drink up to.
The easiest option we think is if you are having a function and providing alcohol; ensure you also have a plan covering a bus, sober drivers or taxi chits for your staff and guests to get home safely.