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While alcohol and other drug use in the workplace can reflect use in the general community, harmful use in the workplace is often indicated by increased injuries, absenteeism, lost production, workers compensation claims and rehabilitation. Studies show lost production from harmful alcohol and other drug use costs Australian industry in excess of $4.5 billion per year. The annual cost of alcohol related absenteeism alone is estimated to be approximately $500m.

In addition, research indicates that up to 15% of all Australian workplace accidents may be associated with alcohol use and that at least 5% of all Australian workplace deaths are associated with alcohol use. The alcohol and other drug consumption patterns of the workforce can have a variety of negative consequences for the workplace and employees, including the following:


  • Accidents resulting in injury or death;
  • Lost employee work time;
  • Damage to tools and equipment repair costs;
  • Increased insurance costs/workcover levy;
  • Possible bad publicity and even prosecution;


  • Lost production;
  • Disruption of operations;
  • Covering for lost employee time;

Lower Productivity

  • Lower quantity and quality of work;
  • Loss of business;
  • Loss of skills when employee terminated / injured / ill;
  • Co-workers covering for affected employees;

Staff Turnover

  • Costs of dismissal or premature retirement;
  • Replacement of employees;
  • Training of new employees;
  • Loss of skills and experience;
  • Loss of investment in employees;

Employee Consequences

  • Possible injury to self and others;
  • Demotion, discipline or dismissal;
  • Problems with family, friends and workmates;
  • Loss of self-esteem;
  • Loss of wages;
  • Cost of medical expenses;

Workforce Consequences

  • Unsafe work environment with risk of Accidents;
  • Covering for poor work performance;
  • Disputes;
  • Reduced morale;
  • Embarrassment if forced to ‘dob in a mate’ for their own good.

Types Of Drugs, Their Effects and Potential Consequences for the Workplace

People may use alcohol or other drugs for a variety of reasons and not all use has harmful outcomes. Alcohol use, for example, can be an enjoyable and pleasurable experience for many people and there is some evidence to suggest that low levels of alcohol consumption may have positive health benefits for older people. However, excessive use of alcohol is also associated with substantial health and social problems. Australians are among the heaviest drinkers in the world. Drinking alcohol is often socially expected and many people do not view alcohol as a drug. However, alcohol is a drug and in large quantities can have a toxic affect on the human body. Alcohol is a depressant and excessive consumption or consumption in combination with other depressant drugs can cause death.

Alcohol Effects

Drinking even small amounts of alcohol can lead to impaired judgment of speed and distance and slowed reaction times. Larger amounts of alcohol affect muscle coordination, reflexes, vision and hearing. Alcohol produces a false sense of confidence about one’s ability to perform tasks. The risks associated with alcohol may be increased when used in combination with other drugs. Alcohol can magnify the effects of sleeping pills, tranquillisers, prescribed medicines, cold remedies and cannabis.


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