Steps to limiting alcohol-related liability: 4 recommendations

In the US, the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) recommended lowering the blood-alcohol concentration limit to .05% from .08%. (If you are unfamiliar with how blood-alcohol concentration is measured, this might be useful and comparing the percentages allowed world-wide is useful and interesting.)

Many who know me personally or via blogs, other writing and training know that much of my professional focus has been and continues to be on risk assessment, risk anticipation, and risk and emergency management. When it comes to alcohol consumption, especially what is served and consumed at meetings, this story, told to me years ago by an industry attorney, has been a guide:

At a state association lunch meeting and program - a fairly typical event, I was told (lunch, speaker, a bit of networking.) - no alcohol was served. After the program, two individuals from a company invited customers to the bar before they all drove either home or back to work. In this group, one person over-drank, left, drove and while driving was in an accident that killed another party. 

In the telling, I was told who was sued. And, even when I was told this, many years ago, I was not surprised: the bartender, the facility and individuals who worked there, the hosting company employees, the customer who drank, the state association and yes, their meeting planner, individually.

That story has stayed with me as a guide to help clients and colleagues consider what they do. Also guiding me are the words of Jeff King, for many years the attorney for the Convention Industry Council (not the attorney who told me the story), who said "It doesn't matter if you are right or wrong, you can still be sued." That is clearly illustrated by the story above.

It's always been strange to me that alcohol (service and consumption) equaled "hospitality"; that no matter what, alcohol had to be served at events and those who chose not to drink, especially at our industry events, were bullied to consume. 

Meeting planners/professionals and our vendor partners often do not question the service of alcohol. We should. Before there are injuries to people and property or there are deaths. And before we are sued.

Questions to ask yourself, in your organization and of  vendor partners:

1. In what ways will we consider how alcohol is served (and consumed) at events we produce if the NTSB recommendations are implemented by states in which we hold meetings and events?

2. What do we know about alcohol and its impact? 
    Conisider these resources.
    Alcohol and Your Health
    Alcohol and the brain 
    More about alcohol and the brain
3. With what host liability laws are we familiar?

4. Even if the recommendations on blood-alcohol concentration are not implemented, what steps will we take to limit alcohol consumption and my individual and our collective liability?
    a. Ensure bartenders and other servers are licensed and trained? That venues and servers are covered by insurance?
    b. Help create a company/organization culture of sobriety?
    c. Recommend top-down behavior modeling on alcohol consumption?
    d. Limit the pour amounts?
    e. Serve substantial (more than "dry snacks" or light hors d'hoeuvres) food when alcohol is served?
    f. Use drink tickets or cash bars? (Caution: it may limit but not alleviate liability.)
    g. Provide transportation to and from off-site venues and/or home?
    h. Provide "walkers" to get people to their hotel rooms and ensure they get there safely?

I'm not "against" alcohol. I'm against ignorance in serving and consuming it. I'm anti-alcohol bullying and making anyone feel they have to consume to be "part of the crowd" or culture. 

Isn't it in our best interest to do more?
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