Businesses host parties for a variety of reasons, including the holidays and organizational accomplishments. While these events are fun, team-building opportunities, they can create a number of risks for the hosting company. In fact, in the event that an employee is injured at the party or causes property damage, the employer is usually the one held responsible. This can lead to costly litigation and reputational harm that can affect a company for years.
To avoid major losses, it’s not only important for employers to secure the right insurance coverage for every individual risk, but to also have a thorough understanding of common holiday party exposures.
Anytime you provide alcohol to individuals in a non-commercial manner, you are considered a social host. This is important to note, as a social host may be responsible for the acts of their guests should their conduct create harm. These risks are compounded when alcohol is served, and employers may be liable for damages following a drunken driving accident or similar incident.
While the best way to reduce alcohol liability risks is to avoid serving it altogether, this isn’t always feasible. To promote the safety of your employees and guests at company-sponsored events, consider the following:
- Hold the event off-site at a restaurant or hotel.
- Provide plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages throughout the night.
- Serve drinks to guests rather than offering a self-serve bar. Limit the amount of alcohol you will serve. Require servers to measure spirits.
- Set up bar stations instead of having servers circulate the room. Place table tents at each bar that remind employees and guests to drink responsibly.
- Don’t price alcohol too low, as it encourages overconsumption. Offer a range of low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks at no charge.
- Close the bar an hour before the scheduled end of the party. Do not offer a “last call,” as this promotes rapid consumption.
- Entice guests to take advantage of safe transportation options by subsidizing taxis or promoting a designated driver program.
Similar to alcohol use, marijuana and other drug consumption can directly affect the safety of your party guests. In fact, according to the most recent federal data, 44 percent of vehicle crash deaths can be linked to drug-impaired driving, up from 28 percent a decade earlier.
Marijuana contains hundreds of chemicals, many of which act directly on the body and brain. Individual sensitivity to marijuana can vary, but the general effects include the following:
- Dizziness, drowsiness, light-headedness, fatigue and headaches
- Impaired memory, concentration and ability to make decisions
- Disorientation and confusion
- Suspiciousness, nervousness, anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations
- Impaired motor skills and perception
- Dry mouth, throat irritation and coughing
- Increased heartbeat
These health effects can last long after an employee smoked, increasing the potential for accidents or major health concerns. In addition, federal, state and local laws may prohibit marijuana use in certain areas, making it all the more important to educate employees on behavior expectations.
To keep your party guests safe and avoid any liability concerns, consider making clear rules for marijuana use at your party. Remind employees that even though they are at a social event, they are still attending a work function and workplace policies on the use of marijuana still apply.
Workplace Harassment and Discrimination
Even when holding company-sponsored events off-site, employers are expected to enforce their workplace policies and safeguard their employees. In particular, employers must pay extra care to prevent issues of harassment and discrimination at their events, as they can lead to employment claims and costly litigation.
To help keep employees safe at company parties, employers should ensure all of their policies related to harassment, violence, discrimination and code of conduct are up to date and account for company-sponsored events. Policies should be specific as to what is and is not tolerated, and redistributed them as thoroughly as possible.
In addition, employers should:
- Consider making the event a family party where employees can bring their spouse, significant other, children or a friend. This can help deter inappropriate behavior.
- Keep event themes and decorations appropriate. Parties should be neutral and not make reference to specific religions or beliefs. In addition, plan your party on a day that does not conflict with religious holidays.
- Consider having just one entrance to your party. This will allow you to control who enters the venue and ensure that uninvited guests do not attended.
- Have supervisors and managers chaperone the event, looking closely for inappropriate behavior. Hire third-party security personnel as needed.
- Avoid making attendance for company-sponsored events mandatory.
Food is a staple of many company-sponsored events, and can actually be a useful way to keep party guest sober and limit alcohol-related liability (starchy foods can help reduce the absorption of alcohol). However, when serving food, there are a number of risks employers should consider.
For instance, employers need to be wary of potential food allergies. In the event that a guest gets sick from the food, they could sue the employer for negligence.
To help protect against this, employers should ask party guests to disclose any of their allergies, either in their RSVP or by contacting the event coordinator directly. In addition, you should specify what ingredients are in every food item, both on the menu and on display cards near the food itself.
For added protection against illnesses, it’s critical that employers promote safe food preparation and handling practices. Moreover, when working with a third-party provider, employers should do their due diligence to ensure they are securing reputable vendors.
Property damage can occur at just about any kind of party, even small, company-sponsored events. As the host, it’s your job to ensure your guests remain safe, behave appropriately and respect the venue and its contents.
To do so, employers should:
- Set behavior expectations before the party.
- Have supervisors and managers chaperone the event, looking closely for inappropriate behavior. Hire third-party security personnel as needed.
- Remove valuable items from the party area wherever possible. Make sure any areas that you don’t want guests to enter are locked, roped off or secured in some way.
- Review your liability insurance and know what it covers.
- Ensure the venue is equipped to handle the number of individuals invited to the party.
Secure the Coverage You Need in Advance
Even if you take all the appropriate precautions, incidents can still occur. As such, it’s important for all organizations to secure adequate insurance.
Each business is different, and may require additional policies to account for all of their exposures. Contact Scurich Insurance today to learn about your coverage options when it comes to hosting a party.
On Sept. 28, 2018, Facebook announced that nearly 50 million user accounts were compromised in a data breach. The breach, which can be traced back to July 2017, is one of the largest in the company’s 14-year history.
While investigations are ongoing, the company said hackers exploited a software vulnerability in Facebook’s "View As" feature to steal access tokens and gain control of user accounts. Access tokens are effectively digital keys to specific accounts, and stealing them allows attackers to view private posts or compose status updates without the knowledge of the affected user.
In addition, the attack allowed the hackers to see anything that users can see on their own profile, including the names and birth dates of friends and family members. Such information could be used in future phishing attacks.
In response to the attack, Facebook reset 90 million logins automatically, fixed the software vulnerability and informed law enforcement officials. While the company says that users do not need to change their passwords, individuals experiencing login issues should navigate to Facebook’s Help Center.
As a safety precaution, users are encouraged to log in and out of all of their accounts on every device. Users can see all of the devices they’re currently signed into here.
To learn more about the breach, read Facebook’s official blog post.
According to a recent study, the average person checks their cellphone 100 times a day. While there is a time and a place for cellphones, using it at the job site can be extremely dangerous.
If you’re distracted for just a second while operating a power tool, working on a roof or driving a forklift, you can injure yourself or a co-worker. You can also face civil or criminal liability for damages you cause by operating a motorized vehicle while using a cellphone.
It isn’t only operators of machinery who need to be mindful of the dangers of cellphone use on the job site. Simply looking down at your cellphone and not paying attention to your surroundings could put your life in danger.
Cellphone Safety Tips When On-site
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) prohibits cellphone use by operators of cranes and similar equipment. Most organizations prohibit any kind of cellphone use on the job site—not just for crane operators. It is your responsibility to know how your company’s rules apply to you and follow them accordingly.
If you struggle with the temptation to check your phone while working on a job site, consider the following safety tips:
- Get in the habit of sending and receiving text messages before or after your shift, or during one of your breaks.
- Remind family and friends that you may not be able to respond to their messages right away. Provide them with your workplace contact information in case of emergencies.
- Turn off push notifications so you’re not distracted by any apps.
- Don’t carry your cellphone on you if the temptation to check it is too much. Instead, leave it in a safe place where it won’t distract you from your job.
- Follow your workplace policy for cellphone use at work and on the job site. Be aware of any cellphone-free zones.
Besides creating enormous safety risks, employees who are texting at work are not doing what they are getting paid to do. For this reason, these workers may be subject to disciplinary action.
If you have questions about ’s workplace cellphone policy, or if you notice inappropriate cellphone use on the job site, don’t hesitate to discuss it with your supervisor or HR.
More Than 132,000 Pounds of Ground Beef Products Recalled
On Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that Cargill Meat Solutions would be recalling over 132,000 pounds of ground beef products.
The recall news comes after an investigation found that these products were made from the chuck portion of carcasses that may be contaminated with E. coli. According to the FSIS, 17 people have been sickened in the outbreak and one person has died.
Details of the Outbreak
The recalled products were packaged on June 21 and have an "EST. 86R" label inside the USDA inspection mark. Because the recalled products were sold at major stores nationwide, it’s important to check your products to make sure they’re not on the recall list.
Specifically, the following products have been recalled:
- 3-lb. chubs* of “OUR CERTIFIED 73/27 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” with a USE OR FREEZE BY JUL/11/18 and case code 00228749057646.
- 3-lb. chubs of “OUR CERTIFIED 73/27 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” with a USE OR FREEZE BY JUL/11/18 and case code 00228749002653.
- 10-lb. chubs of “EXCEL 73/27 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 00228749089098.
- 10-lb. chubs of “EXCEL 73/27 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 90028749002751.
- 10-lb. chubs of “EXCEL 81/19 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 90028749003536.
- 10-lb. chubs of “EXCEL GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 00228749003568.
- 10-lb. chubs of “EXCEL CHUCK GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 90028749402773.
- 20-lb. chubs of “EXCEL 81/19 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF COMBO” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 90028749073935.
- 10-lb. chubs of “Sterling Silver CHUCK GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 00228749702416.
- 10-lb. chubs of “CERTIFIED ANGUS BEEF CHUCK GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 90028749802405.
- 10-lb. chubs of “CERTIFIED ANGUS BEEF CHUCK GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 with case code 00228749802413.
- 10-lb. chubs of “Fire River Farms CLASSIC GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a USE/FREEZE BY: 07/11/2018 with case code 90734730297241.
The recall has been classified as a Class I recall, meaning there is a "reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death." This means that if you’ve purchased any of the contaminated products, you should throw them away immediately and not consume them.
What are the symptoms of E.coli?
Symptoms of E.coli can vary, but generally begin three to four days after ingesting contaminated food or drink. Common symptoms include diarrhea, severe stomach cramps and vomiting. Most people are able to recover within a week, but severe cases can last longer. The CDC recommends contacting your doctor if you have symptoms of an E.coli infection.
For More Information
For more information on this recall, visit the FSIS’ website.
*”Chub” refers to ground beef packaged in a cylindrical, plastic tube.
Employee theft, fraud and embezzlement can cause serious financial and reputation damage to your company. Implement several safety measures as you prevent employee theft and protect your business.
Review Your Hiring Practices
Start with honest employees, and you could reduce your theft risk. Consider implementing the following pre-employment checks for all employees, particularly those who work with finances, confidential data or inventory.
- Criminal history of theft, fraud or violence.
- Civil history of fraud, collections or restraining orders.
- Driver’s license report of serious or numerous violations.
- Education verification of degrees and certifications from accredited institutions.
- Employment verification of positions, length, performance, reasons for leaving, and eligibility for rehire.
Utilize Internal Controls
Prepare for the possibility of theft with policies and procedures that limit this risk.
- Separate duties – Place different employees in charge of transaction processing and recording.
- Control access – Only authorized employees should have access to accounting systems and physical and financial information and assets.
- Authorize control policies – Develop a secure process for initiating, authorizing, recording, and reviewing financial transactions and inventory.
- Update security – Install security cameras, engrave “do not duplicate” on keys to sensitive information, and change locks and security codes when cleared employees leave.
Perform Impartial Audits
In addition to regular audits, hire impartial parties to conduct random audits. Examine financial, inventory and other records as you encourage employees to resist temptation.
Create a Positive Work Environment
When your work environment supports collaboration, fairness, and recognition and implements clear policies, organizational structure, and communication, your employees will probably remain honest. They will feel goodwill toward the company and may be less likely to commit theft and jeopardize the supportive, friendly and healthy environment.
Educate Your Employees
Partner with your employees to avoid and prevent theft. They should know your company’s internal controls, conduct and ethics policy, and discipline process. Ask new employees to review these documents and sign a form indicating they’ve done so, and review the policies at least annually.
Use an Anonymous Reporting System
Equip employees, clients and vendors with the power to report suspicions or proof of theft, fraud or embezzlement. An anonymous reporting system protects your staff while giving you valuable information that protects your company.
Investigate all Theft Reports
Demonstrate that you take theft seriously when you investigate every theft report you receive. The investigation should be thorough, prompt and transparent.
Purchase Adequate Insurance
Commercial crime insurance protects your business as it covers financial losses and liability. Your insurance agent can help you purchase the right insurance coverage and adequate policy limits.
Protect your company from employee theft when you implement several security measures. They can reduce your theft, fraud and embezzlement risk.
With some farmers struggling to find reliable farm labor, it is important to invest some thought in the hiring process. Here are some tips for finding the right help:
Examine your needs. You might have a general idea in your head of what work needs to be done, but it’s best to be specific. Narrow down broad processes into specific jobs so you can determine how much help you truly need.
Think about desired traits. Do you need someone to fill a temporary need, or are you hoping that person can go on to fill a managerial role? You’ll have to determine whether people skills are more important than manual labor or machinery skills, and list those traits in your job description.
Consider hiring for a trial period. If you’re hesitant about a candidate but need immediate help, consider hiring them for a short-term trial period. This saves you from high employee turnover while buying you time to recognize your needs. It allows both you and the worker to communicate any frustrations and expectations after the trial period before considering whether the working relationship is worth investing in long term.