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Holiday party? Take a safe, sober approach

With the holiday season here, workers and employers often gather together to enjoy the festivities. Often times workplace parties include the consumption of alcoholic beverages. If that's the case, the Department of Labor strongly encourages employers to take precautions that will prevent tragedy during the season.

The department's Working Partners for an Alcohol- and Drug-Free Workplace program provides steps employers can take all year round — and particularly during the holidays — to ensure the safety of their workers. Nine tips for office celebrations include:

1) Make your policy known. Be sure employees know your workplace substance abuse policy and that the policy addresses the use of alcoholic beverages in any work-related situation and office social function.

2) Post the policy. Use every communication vehicle to make sure your employees know the policy. Prior to an office party, use break room bulletin boards, office email and paycheck envelopes to communicate your policy and concerns.

3) Reinvent the office party concept. Why have the typical office party? Try something new like an indoor carnival, group outing to an amusement park or volunteer activity with a local charity.

4) Make sure employees know when to say when. If you do serve alcohol at an office event, make sure all employees know that they are welcome to attend and have a good time, but that they are expected to act responsibly.

5) Give them a choice. Make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages available.

6) Eat...and be merry! Avoid serving lots of salty, greasy or sweet foods, which tend to make people thirsty. Serve foods rich in starch and protein that stay in the stomach longer and slow the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream.

7) Designate party managers. Remind managers that even at the office party, they may need to implement the company's alcohol and substance abuse policy.

8) Arrange alternative transportation. Anticipate the need for alternative transportation for all party-goers, and make special transportation arrangements in advance of the party. Encourage all employees to make use of the alternative transportation if they consume any alcohol.

9) Serve none for the road. Stop serving alcohol before the party officially ends.

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