Patron and staff safety on licensed premises

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Liquor Act 1992, liquor licensees have a legal obligation to provide a safe environment for patrons, staff and the areas surrounding their licensed premises.

Creating a safer environment will not only lessen the risk of legal, health and social concerns but people will see you are committed to the responsible service of alcohol. If increased safety is assured, patrons will want to spend more time at your venue which means more profit to you.

Providing a safe environment and 'preserving amenity'

Under a new section of the Liquor Act 1992 (section 142ZZB), a licensee or permittee must provide and maintain a safe environment in and around the premises and take all reasonable steps to ensure:

  • use of the premises does not adversely affect the amenity of the nearby area
  • behaviour of persons entering or leaving the premises does not adversely affect the amenity of the nearby area
  • relevant offences in or around the premises are prevented where the licensee or permittee knows or has reason to believe the offence is being or about to be committed.

A 'relevant offence' is one that may be reasonably expected to have an adverse impact on the health and safety of a person in or around the premises or the amenity of the area in which the premises are located.

The new requirements relating to preserving amenity and preventing the commission of offences clearly state that a licensee is to take 'reasonable steps', requiring a licensee to act in a manner that would be considered 'reasonable' in ensuring the local area is not disturbed and to prevent offences from occurring. Note: The Commissioner for Liquor and Gaming will issue a guideline on these requirements to help licensees comply with their responsibilities.

Safety issues

Important safety issues for licensees to consider include the following (select any of the dropdown items below for more information):

Will your trading promotions place customers or staff in jeopardy or an unsafe situation (e.g. all you can drink, flaming drink promotions)? Remember, it's illegal to advertise such drink promotions external to your licensed premises.

Read more about liquor advertising and promotions.

Do not allow any area to become too congested with patrons. In crowded areas patrons trying to socialise will get pushed and shoved while standing and have difficulty moving and being served. It is harder for security to observe and can affect safe and effective evacuation. The spilling and slopping of drinks and wandering hands can also create tension, frustration and conflict.

By regulating the number of patrons in an area you can:

  • create an impression of popularity and restricted access
  • ensure staff serving liquor have enough time and visibility to assess levels of intoxication.

To ensure that incidents are dealt with quickly and safely it is important to employ the right ratio of security to patron numbers.

Be aware of your responsibilities regarding the use of dangerous products (e.g. liquid nitrogen) or banned products.

Drink, food and needle spiking are serious emerging issues in Queensland's entertainment precincts and other venues.

Drink spiking involves adding alcohol or other drugs to someone's drink without their knowledge or consent.

Needle spiking involves someone being punctured by a needle (often in a limb) and injected with drugs without their consent.

Spiking can be used to hurt or steal from others, commit sexual assault or as a prank to get someone drunk or high.

Drink spiking is an offence under the Criminal Code (1899) with a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment. There are also a range of offences under the Criminal Code relating to needle spiking, which also carry terms of imprisonment.

Queensland licensees have a responsibility to educate their staff about spiking so they can look out for the signs and act when they think someone might be a victim. Research shows 4 out of 5 victims are female and about half are under 24.

Have a conversation with your staff about identifying and supporting patrons who may be the victim of a spiking incident.

Signs of drink spiking

A patron who's had their drink spiked may tell you they feel drunker than expected.

They may show signs of:

  • mental confusion
  • memory loss
  • loss of inhibitions
  • speech difficulties (e.g. slurring).

Signs someone might need medical help include:

  • vomiting
  • muscle spasms or seizures
  • collapsing
  • loss of consciousness or the inability to be woken from sleep
  • choking
  • turning pale or blue
  • having a seizure or shaking
  • breathing problems (e.g. taking slow or shallow breaths).

What you can do to help

Display posters about drink spiking in your venue to help staff and patrons recognise and respond to the signs of drink spiking.

Help a patron who might have had their drink spiked by:

  • staying with and keeping a close eye on them
  • asking them for as much information as you can
  • taking note of any suspicious people
  • calling an ambulance if their condition deteriorates (e.g. if they lose consciousness)
  • contacting police—reporting the incident within 24 hours will allow evidence to be taken to help with prosecution.

Support services

If someone has been sexually assaulted, call the police on 000.

For confidential counselling support, refer the patron to:

Ensure staff clear tables and surroundings of empty glasses and bottles regularly to reduce incidences of broken glass. This also removes potential weapons should trouble arise, and increases staff and security presence in view of patrons.

Making drinking water available to patrons is the responsibility of every licencee and is essential to minimising harm and intoxication.

The Liquor Regulation 2002 makes it mandatory for commercial hotel licencees, community club licencees, commercial other (bar) licencees, licencees catering to a commercial public event and any licencee who trades after 12 midnight to provide cold drinking water free of charge to any patron who requests it, at any time the premises is trading. All other licencees must make cold drinking water available either free of charge or at a reasonable cost to patrons when the premises is trading.

Monitor and record entertainment noise 3m from the source, every hour, to ensure it does not exceed the noise levels outlined on your liquor licence. When providing entertainment you can minimise potential community impact by closing the doors and windows of your premises.

A licensee who has earned the respect of patrons through fair treatment and a sociable, no-nonsense manner will have fewer problems and the support of other customers in dealing with problems, which do arise from time to time. You should aim at a balance between social interaction with patrons and detached
authority when trouble arises, so that everyone understands who will have the last word.

Measures to control patron behaviour

  • Refuse entry to unduly intoxicated people and minors.
  • Consider engaging a security firm to provide appropriately licensed personnel to avoid, reduce or address violent or otherwise poor patron behaviour.
  • Discourage unsafe practices that are likely to cause harm.
  • Do not allow people to leave your premises with open containers of alcohol, such as a stubbies, cans or glass. This could be interpreted as tolerating patron consumption of liquor in a public place or while driving, both of which are against the law. By allowing a patron to remove liquor you may also
    be breaching the Liquor Act or a condition of your licence.
  • Supervise taxi ranks outside of your premises. If fights tend to break out among people waiting in line, pre-plan by advising the taxi company of your closure times. Can taxis be alerted prior to closing to be available for patrons?
  • Discourage groups of people from lingering and keep noise levels to a minimum. Disturbing neighbours can result in reduced trading hours or cancellation of your licence.

Licensees may refuse service to patrons because the:

  • law requires it (e.g. if the person is a minor or unduly intoxicated or disorderly)
  • safety of the patron is in jeopardy (e.g. from the consumption of liquor)
  • safety of others is in jeopardy (e.g. from the consumption of liquor by a particular patron)
  • licensee considers it warranted (provided it is not discriminatory).

Read more about refusal of service.

A RAMP outlines how a licensee will manage the premises in a way that will minimise harm caused by alcohol abuse and misuse.

Consider displaying your RAMP on your premises. This will show your patrons you are committed to the responsible service of alcohol.

Read more about the requirements for a RAMP.

  • Trained staff provide an appearance of professionalism which demonstrates your commitment to the responsible service of alcohol.
  • Staff who are informed and well trained will be less likely to place you in jeopardy of losing your licence.
  • Staff who are friendly and well-mannered create an atmosphere that patrons respond to positively, and can decrease the risk of patron and staff assaults.
  • Run regular staff meetings to discuss issues (e.g. how they have dealt with difficult patrons, responsible service of alcohol, etc.).
  • Use the women's safety training videos to train staff to be aware of unwanted behaviours women experience in venues and to give them the tools to identify, prevent, and resolve them.
  • Ensure all staff take responsibility for monitoring patron behaviour and potential consumption of liquor by unduly intoxicated patrons.
  • Ensure staff regularly clear away empty glasses and open bottles.
  • Record incidents in the register of crowd controllers. This will be especially helpful if court proceedings are necessary.
  • Ensure a staff member on duty has first-aid training to deal with emergencies such as heart attacks and even simple injuries such as sprained ankles, cuts from broken glass and heat exhaustion.
  • Are your premises adequately lit? This will allow monitoring of patron behaviour, including intoxication levels, and will discourage drug dealing, sexual harassment and unwanted loitering. Is lighting outside the establishment adequate for security?
  • Serve alcohol in measured glasses so people can monitor their standard drinks.
  • Use signage advising patrons of their rights and responsibilities.
  • Ensure fire exits are designated with lit fire exit signs and not blocked or locked from inside.
  • Ensure your premises is clean and in good repair to minimise unhygienic practices and potential safety risks.