How to minimise risks during the festive season

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With the festive season upon us, it is always timely to reconsider those matters which we can sometimes leave to chance or believe (mistakenly on occasions) that we are up-to-date with. Especially in light of the legislative changes proposed by the Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, it is essential that you consider the way you manage risk at your venue.

We are constantly aware of the need for risk management or risk reduction in the area of legislative compliance, for example OLGR (Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation) and OSH (Occupational Safety and Health). Of course these risks are spread over a myriad of operational areas in the business.

One of the key areas of risk management, which falls under both of these banners, is the protection of staff. When you consider how you keep your staff safe, the usual considerations relate to ensuring that you have robust workplace practices for how they deal with issues such as troublesome patrons (OLGR) and/or good practices within the workplace (OSH).

At this time of the year, when all risks are elevated we need to make sure we keep our staff safe and in doing so, keep our business safe.

Recently there have been a number of armed holdups at licensed venues throughout the state.  These incidents are obviously serious and have the potential for tragic outcomes. They also impact on the business both directly (loss of money stolen by the perpetrators) and indirectly (becoming known as a potentially unsafe venue for staff and patrons alike).

By regularly assessing risk at your venue, the impacts of this type of occurrence can be mitigated to some degree.

Training staff on what to do in the event of a robbery occurring is paramount. No amount of preventative actions can guarantee that you won’t be the victim of a robbery. Of course you should take action to reduce the likelihood, but this needs to be properly balanced with training on what to do during and after such an incident.

The basic crime prevention advice is to advise staff to always remain calm. This is a lot easier to say than do, particularly when faced with a violent offender who is centrally focussed on his desire to relieve you of your hard earned money. As part of remaining calm, staff should be advised to always obey the directions of the offender. It is not worth their life to try and save money (that’s why you have adequate insurance coverage) and no amount of persuasion will deter an offender from their hell bent desire, thus staff should not try and engage an offender in discussion.

Of course there are other strategies that will assist staff (or anyone) when faced with these types of incidents but these couple of hints will, we believe, go some way to helping staff successfully navigate their way through a robbery incident. For a more extensive review of your strategies, consider getting an outsider perspective – DWS provides comprehensive compliance auditing, OSH and robbery prevention training for licensed venues.

This time of the year also means you need to check to see if you have attended to those matters which you think you have, but sometimes get so busy working in your business, that you forget! For example, have you lodged your applications for your extended hours or temporary increase in your licensed area, for those special one off events you are going to host during the holiday period? Remember there are very strict time frames associated with a number of applications that OLGR have to process.

If you are time poor and are actively working in your business then these are matters which can be easily overlooked until the ‘11th hour’.

Lastly, we would like to provide some comment about the proposed amendments to the Liquor Act 1992, the Liquor Regulation 2002 and the Gaming Machine Act 1991.

We readily acknowledge that there will be a level of positive anticipation from some and concern and angst from others as to how these proposed changes will impact on your business model.

Every stakeholder in the industry will have an opinion. However, regardless of which side of the line you stand on, the most important process is to have a plan – a plan on what you will do to best utilise the situation for your own business moving forward.

Some operators may lose trading hours that currently produce vital income for their business and employment for staff. If this is the case, then strategies will need to be developed to offset these issues. Other operators now have the opportunity to increase their trading hours to work towards having a net gain in their business and provide additional working opportunities for staff.

Either way, the worst thing that can potentially happen for your business is if you choose to do nothing and wait for the changes to occur.

Planning for the immediate future, with a vision that tackles the mid and long term goals of the business, is critical during these times of change.

I’m sure you will have read the press releases and perhaps had the opportunity (when not working in your business) to read the Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Bill 2015.

Some of the proposed changes referred to in the Minister’s speech and detailed in the Bill include:

  • From 1 July 2016 – “Remove the linkage of gaming hours to liquor consumption hours.”  This affords a licensee the opportunity to provide gaming and or entertainment for up to two hours after the liquor licence ceases.
  • The late liquor trading standard across the State will be 2am (unless in an approved Safe Night Precinct [SNP] or unless expressly prohibited from doing so, for example on Premise Meals licence) – thus an opportunity to trade gaming and or entertainment through until 4am will exist.
  • The opportunity for SNP venues to trade until 3am (SNP Boards need to make a 3am application for the precinct and venues would still need to apply individually for the extended trading hours) thus providing an opportunity to trade later than venues not located within a SNP – a point of difference. If approved, then the licensee would be able to apply to provide gaming and or entertainment through until 5am (without liquor).
  • Should venues located in an SNP trade though until 3am, there will be a ‘lock out’ from 1am.
  • The current ability to apply for up to 12 one-off permits per year to sell or supply liquor beyond the regular approved liquor trading hours remains. Thus the need to be strategic about when these opportunities are going to be utilised is a consideration.
  • Operators of commercial bar licenses will be able to apply for an exemption to the post-midnight ban on the service of high-alcohol content drinks – a point of difference.
  • The Queensland Police Service (QPS) will be able to use the results of breath tests taken in accordance with current Police powers (arrest of offender for relevant assault offences) as admissible evidence in prosecutions against licensees. A potentially critical issue which highlights the need for licensees to ensure they have strategies in place regarding good RSA and due diligence to support their claims of same.
  • Changes to takeaway liquor sales provisions for the holders of Community Club licenses.

These are just a few of the changes proposed under the amended legislation. While there is to be a period of community consultation and the matter will still need to pass through the House, we believe it would be wise to start the ‘consideration phase’ now.

No matter the outcome, DWS provides a variety of services that can assist you in planning strategically. Contact us on (07) 3878 9355 to help your venue tackle this legislation change.

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