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Did you know that employee alcohol consumption contributes to 5% of all Australian workplace deaths and 4-11% of non-fatal workplace injuries? In addition, a monstrous $5.2 billion is lost in productivity due to alcohol and drugs use.

The effects of alcohol and drugs within the workplace should not be underestimated. These few statistics alone are an indication of the dangerous – in some cases fatal – impact of drugs and alcohol abuse in the workplace.

In 2014 the Australian Drug Foundation found that half of Australia’s workers drink at harmful levels, with around 17% of workers using illicit drugs such as cannabis, and that an estimated $6 billion is lost in work productivity per year as a result.

It was further discovered by the Australian Drug Foundation that an employee under the influence of alcohol verbally abused 1 in 4 workers while 1 in 50 were physically abused.

Workplace drug and alcohol expert’s reports found that alcohol abuse in Australia contributes to 5% of deaths in the workplace while substance abuse contributed to 11% of non-fatal work injuries.

Employees Responsibility

Employees also have a responsibility under the Act to avoid reckless behaviour and to avoid endangering another person in the workplace.

Although substance abuse is not the predominant Workplace Health and Safety issue, the effects of it can be damaging not only on employees, but also the workplace. Low levels of supervision can ultimately lead to the detriment of workers.

Employers Responsibility

There is a legal obligation imposed upon employers to ensure that their employees are in a workplace environment, which prioritises safety, productivity and employee well being.

An employer’s duty requires employers to monitor the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace for the purposes of preventing illness and injury.

What Factors Contribute to Drugs and Alcohol Consumption in the Workplace?

In order to understand substance abuse in the workplace, it is important to recognise the factors contributing to drugs and alcohol consumption. Although drugs and alcohol consumption generally occurs outside work hours, patterns of excessive consumption are contributed to by a variety of workplace conditions such as hazardous work, long hours, poor industrial relations, low pay, boredom and job insecurities.

Research shows there is a correlation between a workplace’s culture towards substance abuse and the employee’s attitude. There are three factors in recognising drug and alcohol issues:

  1. Workplace factors: Working conditions, levels of supervision, availability of drugs and alcohol and workplace policy;
  2. Individual factors: Ones attitude, beliefs and behaviour toward drugs and alcohol use;
  3. Organisational factors: Procedures and practices, health and safety climate, industrial relations climate.

(Ref: National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction)

What can Employers Do?

The effects of substance abuse can severely impact a business financially. Managing the health and safety of employees is essential in minimising these effects. It is essential that they recognise the need to address and control substance consumption.

Workplaces are encouraged to establish a workplace drug and alcohol policy and procedure that can be used in the event of a drug or alcohol incident in the business. These processes may include a testing program involving urine and / or oral fluids and breath alcohol testing.

The development of the policy and procedure should be done in consultation with all stakeholders in the business. Training and education of staff in complying with the policies needs to be included and education on the effects on workplace performance and making good personal choices in relation to consumption should be paramount. In addition, mangers in the workplace should be knowledgeable in how to recognise and deal with substances in the workplace and communicate with workers on the topic.

Workplace Drug and Alcohol Services

KINNECT partners with workplaces to address and minimise the impact of drugs and alcohol in the workplace. Our services in this area include:


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