By Wednesday morning, Aussies will have spent up to $800 million on the three-minute Melbourne Cup race, and in all likelihood, many will be battling a collective hangover. While the day is an annual public holiday in the state of Victoria, the Cup is typically a cause for a pause at offices across the country that celebrate this premier horse racing event. Office sweeps are a harmless and common feature in workplaces, and could be seen as a more...form of gambling at the races of the local TAB. However, as was pointed out in an article by Risk Management Magazine, work, health and safety legislation affects employers’ responsibilities relating to the consumption of alcohol at work, and as such, a drop of caution would not go astray when it comes to organising staff parties and boozy office lunches to mark the special day. Some employers allow workers the rest of the day off following the screening of the main race and the downing of a few bubbles. Considering that a half bottle of wine or two pints of beer can take three to four hours for the liver to digest and remove, and the loss of productivity and poor discipline that go hand-in-hand with feeling “tipsy”, this strategy makes sense. Employers that do not allow this should be aware that permitting an employee to continue working under the influence of alcohol risk prosecution, if the worker places himself or others at risk.

Under the harmonized Work Health and Safety Act 2011 legislation across most states and territories in Australia, business operators have a general duty to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers. For workers that participate in workplace celebrations involving alcohol tomorrow, this translates to ensuring that workers drink responsibly, even if it is at a venue serviced by RSA trained staff in licensed premises. Make clear what time the event concludes. We hope that your office enjoys the race that stops the nation, while mitigating risks responsibly!