Use of alcohol and other drugs before or while at work can have a significant negative impact on individuals and the people around them.
The effects of both alcohol and illicit drug use during and outside of work hours can have a negative impact on workplaces in a number of ways, including health and safety, poor relationships and business reputation, and lost productivity.
According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, alcohol alone is estimated to cost Australian workplaces $6 billion per year in lost productivity, while Australian workers admitted to taking almost 11.5 million sick days as a result of their alcohol and/or drug use.
Almost one in 10 workers say they have experienced the negative effects of a co-worker’s misuse of alcohol. Although the use of illicit drugs is not as common, the number of people who have used these drugs at least once is reported to be increasing.
Workers under the influence not only present an injury hazard to themselves, they may also place their workmates in danger or in the difficult position of being expected to cover for unsafe work practices or having to report a fellow worker.
Co-ordination, motor control, alertness and ability to exercise judgement can become affected. These risks are far greater where people operate machinery, drive vehicles or plant, or rely on concentration to do their work.
Damage to property or equipment and negative publicity for a business are also potential issues.
Factors that might increase the likelihood of alcohol or other drug consumption include the prevailing workplace culture, availability, physical isolation, job satisfaction and stress.
Having a responsible attitude to the consumption of alcohol or illicit drug use is an important part of everyone’s overall health and wellbeing. If you reduce or cut out alcohol you will feel healthier, sleep better, save money and feel more energetic.
Read our Top 10 Tips to maintaining and improving your own health and wellbeing. Notice what you are already doing well, but be honest with yourself. For example, if you think you need to cut down on alcohol, write it down as an area for improvement.
Seek information and support if you need it:
- Alcohol and Drug Information Service: call 1300 13 1340 for confidential telephone counselling, information and referral by trained professionals, available to the general public, concerned family and friends, students and health professionals
- beyondblue: drugs, alcohol and mental health information.
Workplaces can be a good setting for promoting healthy attitudes towards responsible alcohol consumption and drug use hazards, especially through workplace education and awareness. By supporting your workers to make better decisions about these issues, you can benefit from a healthier and happier workforce and a safer workplace for everyone.
If an alcohol or drug-related hazard is identified in your workplace, you need to eliminate or reduce any related harm, as far as is practicable.
The most effective work health and wellbeing programs follow the same steps as successful safety programs, so your efforts to manage alcohol and drugs are best done as part of an integrated approach.
Our Simple Steps to Safety guide, with useful templates and checklists, will help you to include work health and safety as part of your business planning. Following these simple steps can help you create a positive work health, safety and wellbeing culture that contributes to the success of your business.
Use our health and safety checklist to help identify alcohol and drug-related hazards in your workplace and find areas for improvement. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is responsible alcohol or drug consumption an accepted part of the workplace culture?
- Does your workplace provide support for isolated workers who have extended separation from family or friends?
- Do you have a drug and alcohol policy and are workers familiar with it? Use our sample policy to help get you started.
- At work functions do you consider responsible provision of alcohol, including food and non-alcoholic drinks?
- Do you promote safe consumption of alcohol messages and the use of support services such as the Alcohol and Drug Information Service?
View our Top 10 Tips video, which can be used as a discussion starter or inspiration for toolbox talks and group exercises around sharing the responsibility for maintaining and improving health and wellbeing.
Seek information, advice and support from our free workplace advisory service if you need it.
Use these resource links for information, tips and tools to help you work towards improving the health and wellbeing of everyone at your workplace:
- Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia: Know your options
- SA Health Healthy Workers: Healthy Futures: ideas to reduce alcohol consumption in your workplace
- National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA): policy advice, training, and consultancy and a fitness for work fact sheet
- Australian Government (The Right Mix): promotion of standard drink sizes and anti-drink driving messages
- BIRST: construction and other industries drug and alcohol program
- Alcohol and Drug Foundation: Alcohol and other drugs in the workplace
- Alcohol and Drug Foundation: Reducing the risk of workplace alcohol and other drug problems
Focus days or events can be a great motivator to do something positive about improving health and wellbeing, either personally or as a workplace group. Try the following:
- Feb Fast (in February): motivation to reduce alcohol consumption for a month
- Dry July Foundation (in July): motivation to reduce alcohol consumption for a month
- Ocsober (in October): motivation to reduce alcohol consumption for a month