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What are the risks to organisations and workers from alcohol?

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

Consequences for the workplace include:

  • workplace accidents that can result in injury or death
  • absenteeism resulting from excessive alcohol consumption
  • lost productivity due to presenteeism (that is, when workers are present but not working productively, due to the effects of alcohol)
  • damage to tools and equipment that may be expensive to repair
  • increased insurance costs
  • negative media publicity for the organisation
  • negative impact on other workers who have to cover for absent or intoxicated workers
  • reduced morale among workers.

Consequences for workers include:

  • accidents that can result in injury or death. Alcohol affects our ability to properly assess situations and manage risks. This can result in mistakes being made that lead to workplace accidents
  • adverse physical health effects, for example, liver cancer, breast cancer, oesophageal cancer, alcohol dependence and heart failure. In fact, alcohol is the second leading cause of preventable hospitalisation and death1 
  • adverse mental health effects. There is a relationship between mental health and alcohol use, with evidence indicating that alcohol consumption can contribute to poorer mental health
  • demotion, discipline or dismissal due to inappropriate conduct. Unemployment and alcohol use are strongly related, with unemployed persons reporting the highest levels of risky drinking among the Australian population.2 It is likely that consumption of alcohol at risky levels leads to unemployment, and that unemployed persons are also more likely to consume alcohol at risky levels
  • medical expenses resulting from alcohol-related injury or illness
  • loss of income, for example, due to absence or dismissal
  • problems with work colleagues, friends and family as a result of alcohol use
  • violence—people are more likely to behave violently when 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, than by a person under the influence of other drugs.3


1Ridolfo, B and Stevenson, C, 2001, The quantification of drug-caused mortality and morbidity in Australia, 1998. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Canberra.

2National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 2004.

3Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2005.

Page last updated: 20 Mar 2014