With so much attention being paid to the impact of illegal drugs such as opioids, heroin and prescription pills, we can lose site that the most common drug of abuse in America, although legal, is alcohol.
The impact of alcohol in the workplace for both employers and other employees, like all drug abuse, can have a significant impact on workplace safety, productivity, absenteeism and medical costs.
The Effects of Alcohol in the Workplace
Alcohol is a depressant drug that slows the messages to and from the brain and body. Alcohol can affect problem solving skills, judgment, concentration, reaction times and coordination. All of these can have negative consequences on ‘fitness for work’ as well as individual health and well-being.
- Preventing accidents that result in injury and or death particularly in occupations involving operating heavy machinery or driving vehicles.
- Workplace relationships with co-workers and customers. The effects of alcohol can impact behavior including acting unprofessionally towards clients, customers and other employees; co-workers may be resentful for covering for others affected by alcohol or the ‘hangover’ effects of alcohol.
- Lower workplace productivity due to short-term absenteeism and a lower quality and quantity of work due to poor decision making and disruption to operations. Also the lost productivity of co-workers covering for alcohol-affected employees.
- Workplace related costs incurred due to long-term alcohol-related job performance include loss of productivity, damaged equipment, employer insurance liabilities, and the related costs of replacement and training new employees.
Detecting Alcohol Abuse is Everyone’s Responsibility
Monitoring work-related alcohol use and its effects on safety, health, and behavior in the workplace is everyone’s responsibility. All employers and employees have safety and health responsibilities and obligations in relation to the workplace.
- Employers have a legal obligation to respond to alcohol use and related-harm in the workplace through ‘duty of care’ provisions under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
- Employees have an obligation to take reasonable care of their own safety and health and not endanger the safety and health of others at the workplace.
Alcohol in the Workplace Policy
If you haven’t already, every employer should have in place a Drug and Alcohol policy that is tailored to your business. It should spell out why the company established the policy; what precisely is expected of employees; and the consequences for policy violations.
Any drug testing program must be fair, accurate, and legally defensible. When testing someone who is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol at work, it is important to have that individual tested immediately.
There are different types of tests available for alcohol detection that can be administered at the workplace, on the job site, or at a clinic. It is recommended that these tests be performed by a certified professional. This ensures all procedures are followed and the risk of being challenged on the result is minimized.
Have Questions on Addressing Alcohol in the Workplace?
Feel free to contact Blackbird Clinical Services by either EMAIL or phone at at 765-447-8700. We are always happy to answer your questions.