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Alcohol in the Workplace

In Australia, the use of alcohol is a significant influence on the health and wellbeing of workers. In workplaces where there is a culture that is accepting of regular alcohol use or is tolerant of excessive alcohol use, workers are more likely to be at risk of alcohol-related harm. Alcohol related absenteeism is very costly to Australian organisations and often occurs when a worker has consumed a large amount of alcohol the previous day. Research reveals

  • Up to 15 per cent of workplace injuries worldwide are attributable to drug and alcohol use
  • Around 60 per cent of individuals who consume drugs and alcohol at harmful levels are in full time employment
  • The economic cost of alcohol use in Australia is estimated at over $4.5billion per year with lost workplace production accounting for the largest proportion of this cost

Risk

Alcohol use in the workplace can result in a variety of negative outcomes for workers and organisations.

Risks to workers include:

  • Adverse physical health effects, e.g. liver cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer, alcohol dependence and heart failure. Alcohol is the second leading cause of preventable hospitalisation and death
  • Adverse mental health effects – evidence indicates alcohol consumption can contribute to poorer mental health
  • Loss of income, due to absence or dismissal
  • Possible violence – people are more likely to behave violently under the influence of alcohol. In fact, people are twice as likely to be physically or verbally abused by a person under the influence of alcohol

Risks to organisations include:

  • Workplace accidents that can result in injury or death
  • Absenteeism resulting from excessive alcohol consumption
  • Lost productivity from presenteeism due to the effects of alcohol
  • Reduced morale amongst workers
  • Negative impact on other workers who have to cover for absent or intoxicated workers

Further risks can be found at What are the Risks to Organisations and Workers from Alcohol.

Remedy

Dependant on the context and conditions, but may include for example:

  • Recognising the workplace and external factors that influence the use of alcohol in the workplace
  • Use preventative interventions to promote safe work practices around alcohol use
  • Direct resources towards a proactive rather than reactive solution
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive alcohol and other drugs policy in consultation with workers
  • Provide training and support to management staff to develop skills to manage alcohol-related issues in the workplace
  • Raise awareness of the risks associated with alcohol use in the workplace and provide training to all staff
  • Conduct a risk assessment to identify factors that may promote alcohol use in the workplace. For example, storage of alcohol in the workplace and alcohol being used to reward workers

Resources

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Page last updated: 31 Mar 2016