With the holiday season fast approaching, many organizations are in the midst of planning their annual holiday parties, meant to recognize the culmination of a year of hard work by employees and celebrate the holiday season. Although this time of year is marked with celebration and provides for a valuable team building opportunity, it can also bring with it particular obligations and potential liabilities for an employer.
The Alberta Court of Appeal just dismissed an employer’s appeal and confirmed that the employer did not do all that was reasonably practical in the circumstances to avoid the reasonably foreseeable risks that led to the fatal accident of its employee. The court noted that the fact that the employer would even consider operating a machine that no one had any familiarity with and without either its own operator or a proper set of written instructions in itself spoke volumes as to the lack of the employer’s due diligence in this matter. Therefore, the health and safety violations were upheld.
With the holiday season fast approaching, employers are consistently reminded of the additional risks and liabilities which may result from an employer-sponsored holiday event. Nevertheless, holiday parties and events are often considered to be an essential "benefit" expected by employees.