Christmas party season for 2021 is upon us (but it feels a bit subdued to me). However, it’s still a good time to blog about the risks of the office party, most of which don’t end up in workers’ comp claims like this one did….

Imagine nine or ten workers at the engineering company, knocking off work at lunchtime on 19 December and having a BBQ and few drinks in the workshop. After lunch, the party moved inside the garage area under the office, and workers sat on plastic garden chairs. A perfect summer afternoon, until….

Stephen (a worker) asked Mick (the MD), about whether he could get some better tools for the job and whether he could get a work t-shirt. Mick apparently got a bit angry and called him a “whingeing cat” and some words were exchanged.

Just to help the situation along, Stephen then decided to switch from beer to Southern Comfort. At some point, while holding an empty bottle, Mick said, “Who drank all my Southern Comfort?” (oops)….. Stephen’s statement recorded what happened next in the following terms:

A short time later, I was standing up next to my chair and Mick just came charging at me and crash-tackled me. We landed on top of the chair and it was obliterated. Mick is a big man, he is fit and does weights. I was telling him to get off me. Mick arched back and balled his hand into a fist. He was going to punch me. At that time, Darren intervened and dragged Mick off me. He said words to the effect, ‘Don’t do that mate’.”

Several fractured ribs (and a few other injuries) later and following an unsuccessful arbitration, the Workers’ Compensation Commission found that Stephen’s employment was a substantial contributing factor to his injuries. That sounds like an understatement to me! Seasons greetings to all.

Creative commons acknowledgment for the photograph.

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