Drug and alcohol use in the workplace

24 August, 2017

Did you know:

  • Drug and alcohol use costs Australian workplaces an estimated $6 billion per year in lost productivity.
  • Recent research has estimated that 2.5 million working days are lost annually due to drinking and drug use - at a cost of more than $680 million.
  • 1 in 10 workers say they have been affected by a colleague’s use of alcohol in the workplace. This can be due to a reduced ability to do their own job, involvement in an accident or near miss, or having to work extra hours to cover for a co-worker.*

Apprentices and trainees

For many apprentices or trainees, this will be their first job out of school – this means greater independence, and earning their own money or more money than they’re used to.

Often it also means socialising and trying to impress (or keep up with!) older colleagues who may be more experienced drinkers. This can often lead to apprentices and trainees underestimating the effects of alcohol (or other drugs) on their own health, safety and work performance.

Those are some scary stats and facts! But how do they affect you and your workplace?

If one of your employees has an alcohol or drug problem, they may:

  • Have impaired job performance – this can include making more mistakes than usual, missing deadlines, or just a general lack of productivity and efficiency
  • Have increased absenteeism or time-keeping skills (e.g. turning up late to their shift)
  • Be tired or unable to concentrate on tasks, have less and energy or display sudden mood changes that affect those around them

Any of these can lead to decreased morale or cooperation between colleagues which in turn can impact the productivity of your wider workforce, and possibly even lead to retention issues.

As an employer, you also have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment for your staff, contractors, visitors and – in some cases – the general public. This means it’s vital that you’re familiar with the signs and able to act immediately if you suspect a staff member of using alcohol or other drugs.

Remember - it isn’t just the consumption of alcohol and other drugs during work hours that has a damaging impact on employee health, productivity and workplace safety. If your staff are turning up to work hungover or coming down from drug use from the night or weekend before, this can also affect their ability to safely perform their job.

What can you do if you suspect one of your employees is affected by alcohol or drug use?

When it comes to tackling drug and alcohol use within your company, there are a range of options available to you.

These options can include implementing a drug and alcohol policy, regular training and education or providing an Employee Assistance Program for staff who need additional support. Depending on the industry you work in, you may also consider alcohol and drug testing in the workplace.

We’ve put together the following checklist to assist you in keeping your workers and your workplace safe:

Example actions Responsibility (e.g. HR department, management team)
Identify and address factors in the workplace that may be contributing to the inappropriate use of alcohol and other drugs  
Display information on safe alcohol guidelines and the effects of drugs (illicit and prescription)  
Provide food and non-alcoholic drinks at work functions where alcohol is served/provided  
Offer a safe travel alternative after functions where alcohol has been provided (e.g. Cabcharge or Uber vouchers)  
Include information on drug and alcohol use as part of regular safety or HR notices/newsletters  
Develop a workplace alcohol and drug policy  
Provide information sessions or training in the workplace  
Provide as Employee Assistance Program for employees or their family members who may need expert support  

How can we help?

At MEGT, we’re committed to workplace health and safety.

When you hire an apprentice or trainee with us, our recruitment team will work with you to provide a tailored service that meets your business needs.

This service can include:

  • Thorough induction and onboarding of your new apprentice or trainee, including training and information about drug or alcohol use in the workplace
  • Pre-employment medical assessments including drug and alcohol testing
  • Access to our free Employee Assistance Program for your new worker and their immediate family
  • Ongoing contact and expert mentoring which can include referral to professional support services where needed

Want to know more?

For information or assistance with apprentice or trainee recruitment, management or health and safety, contact our recruitment team today.

*Source: adf.org.au