Most people would probably be surprised that the very legal and easy to obtain alcohol has proven to be far deadlier than illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine or ice.
In a country known for a strong drinking culture such as Australia, alcohol-related illnesses kill 15 Aussies daily. Worse, alcohol is also a huge contributing factor in many workplace accidents, which are, in most cases, very much avoidable.
Here are 10 of those alcohol related workplace incidents that could have been prevented if only the employers involved had strictly-implemented drug and alcohol policies in place.
Some of the incidents listed may shock you.
1. Drunk employee car crashes: one of the more common accidents in the workplace
A couple in Kentucky, USA has sued a printing company after one of its employees drove a company vehicle while drunk into another vehicle, which then collided with the car of the above-mentioned couple, who sustained various injuries.
2. Alcohol-fuelled party leads to workplace injury
In November 2011, free-flowing booze at a party held by Kalgoorlie-based company Primepower Engineering directly led to the horrific burn injuries suffered by then-19-year-old apprentice Mitchell Canny. Canny, who was apparently under the influence of the unlimited alcohol provided by his employer, had been trying, along with other apprentices, to get a disused engine to “seize”. He was engulfed in a fireball when flammable substances were sprayed on the engine, and he suffered burns to 60 per cent of his body. Primepower has since been found by the court to have neglected to provide a safe workplace, and undisclosed damages have been awarded to Canny.
3. Boss breaks employee’s testicles, causing very painful and embarrassing work injury
Michael Peacock, 45, had to endure three surgeries after Richard Langtry, his former employer at data-security company Iron Mountain Management grabbed his crotch while drunk during a two-day “team-building” seminar in upstate New York on July 18, 2012.
4. Drunk air traffic controller found, workplace accidents avoided
Can you imagine how disastrous it would have been if an air traffic controller in Arkansas hadn’t been found passed out in his chair in the control tower while on duty? While a disaster may have been narrowly avoided, it still should never have happened in the first place if the Springdale Municipal Airport had a strict drug and alcohol testing program in place.
5. Construction worker downs a litre of whisky for lunch, takes 40-ton dump truck on destructive joyride
In June 2005, Christopher Mills, a construction worker, flattened 15 cars and several telegraph poles as he drove a massive, 40-tonne dump truck through East Malling in England. It was later learned that he had drunk a litre of whisky during his lunch break before going on the joyride which caused £50,000 in damage. He was eventually sentenced to 18 months in jail.
6. Intoxicated animal keeper takes a tiger malling
An animal keeper for a circus who had one drink too many caught on multiple videos taking a tiger cub for a walk to a Russian shopping mall. He was fired from his job soon after.
7. Darts club manager dies in alcohol related violence
In March 2006, Philip James McMillan, a Brisbane darts club manager, died of a heart attack when an employee, Darren William Dwyer repeatedly punched and kicked him during a drunken altercation. Dwyer was apparently miffed when McMillan told him he was too drunk to work. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail for manslaughter.
8. Ship captain had drinks before cruise ship ran aground in tragic work accident
Thirty-two people were killed when the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia hit rocks close to the shore and sank. According to witnesses, Captain Francesco Schettino had been drinking shortly before the accident.
9. Employee sacked for showing up for work drunk shoots British employer dead in clear case of alcohol-fuelled violence
Last year, British businessman Tony Gilchrist, who owned a dive shop in the Philippines, was shot dead by a drunk employee, a security guard whom he sacked earlier for showing up for work drunk.
10. Cringe-worthy alcohol related workplace incident: dentist tries to extract teen’s wisdom teeth while drunk
Stephen Kaufman, a dentist from Tennessee, was arrested after he tried to pull a 19-year-old’s wisdom teeth while under the influence of alcohol. Kaufman was so disoriented he refused to stop the procedure even as authorities approached him and ordered him to stop operating on the teen, who was already sedated at that time.
11. Female dockworker bleeds to death after workplace accident
On August 7,2015, Judy Jones, a 49-year-old dockworker in Elizabeth, New Jersey, was struck by a top loader that severed her leg and caused her to bleed to death. The operator of the top loader, identified as Victor Belo, is suspected to have been drinking prior to the incident, and charges are expected to be filed against him.
12. Drunk driver backs tractor into child in one of the more horrible accidents in the workplace
On August 9, 2013, Gary Green, a tractor driver for Swithens Farm in West Yorkshire, UK, backed the tractor he was driving into Harry Whitlam, 11, at an area of the farm that that is not usually open to the public. An inquest found out that Green was almost three times the legal alcohol limit at the time of the accident. Whitlam died later the same day.
All these incidents could have been avoided if the respective workplaces involved actually had a drug and alcohol testing program in place. If they did have one, then the problem is most certainly implementation. If your organisation needs help to develop a sound drug and alcohol policy and implement it effectively, contact us and we will be more than happy to assist in making your workplace safer for everyone.