A range of factors, both at the workplace and in our private lives, can impact on our ability to work safely. The use of alcohol and other drugs is one such factor that can become a work health and safety issue if a worker's co-ordination, motor control, alertness and ability to exercise judgement becomes affected.
At some workplaces this risk is greater e.g. where workers operate machinery, drive, or rely on concentration in the course of their work. The prevailing workplace culture, availability, physical isolation, job satisfaction and stress are just a few of the other factors that might increase a worker's likelihood of alcohol or other drug consumption.
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. There are also the issues of potential damage to property or equipment, negative publicity for a business, and loss of productivity.
Almost one in 10 workers say they have experienced the negative effects of a co-worker's misuse of alcohol, while alcohol and other drugs are estimated to cost Australian workplaces $6 billion per year in lost productivity.
The hazards associated with the consumption of alcohol and illicit drugs by workers before or while at work should be identified and a strategy developed to control them, in the same way that any other workplace hazard would be. The aim of the strategy should be to eliminate or reduce alcohol and other drug related harm, as far as is practicable. This can be achieved through a three-tiered approach of:
- providing information and education
- introducing a policy and associated procedures for dealing with affected workers
- creating opportunities for return to usual work duties by affected workers.
In consultation with their workers employers should develop a drug and alcohol policy that reflects the health and safety needs of their workplace.
Resources and Contacts
A range of resources and services are available to help employers and workers talk about, manage and prevent alcohol and drug use.
Safe Work Australia
Work-Related Alcohol and Drug Use: A Fit for Work Issue
Safe Work Month 2015 presentations
Take 10@10 to talk safety at work
10-minute toolbox-type session on Workplace drug and alcohol strategy
Some of these resources can be ordered by using the ADIS Order Form (PDF 125KB).
Drugs, alcohol and mental health fact sheet
Australian Drug Foundation (ADF)
DrugInfo is an ADF service offering information about alcohol and other drugs, and the prevention of related harms. The ADF's Workplace Services team has a number of preventative tools available.
Australian Drug Information Network
search directory for reliable information on alcohol, other drugs and mental health, with links to treatment services, research, statistics, guidelines, journals, policy, campaigns, events, curriculum and professional development opportunities.
Construction & Other Industries Drug & Alcohol Program
established by employers and workers in the construction industry to address the issue of unsafe work practices caused by drugs and alcohol in the workplace.
Drugs or Alcohol Not at Work
national preventative education campaign, an initiative of the CFMEU in partnership with Incolink
Free 24/7 online drug and alcohol counselling
Phone 1800 888 236 - confidential counselling and referral line