A hearty thanks to noted industrial writer Alan Johnson for his article on drug use in manufacturing which appeared in Manufacturers Monthly. Alan correctly captured the seriousness of the issue of drugs in the work force.
As he said, manufacturers who think drugs or alcohol are not an issue are just fooling themselves. Australia loses $6 billion a year in lost productivity because of drugs and alcohol. It’s fair to say that it is robbing companies of their profits.
Alan reported that 2.5 per cent of the work go to work under the influence of illicit drugs (according to the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction) and amphetamine usage is 4 per cent higher for employees in the manufacturing industry than the total workforce average. This gets worse when you look at Ice (methamphetamine) use. Employees who reported using Ice in the last 12 months was 17 per cent higher for workers in the manufacturing industry.
Research shows that drug usage is more prevalent for workers aged between 18 and 29 years of age, with male workers in the manufacturing industry more predominant users at 4.8 per cent as opposed to 3 per cent of female workers. The Ai Group has admitted that drug and alcohol use in the workplace is a problem that is not going away.
Knowing how to identify drug use is not easy. A person might be affected by prescription medicine, which can be very similar to those from alcohol or illicit substance abuse, or simply not feeling well. Even personal problems such as family or relationship issues could affect performance.
Ai Group said drugs or alcohol in the workplace can be a safety risk to the worker and their co-workers. Not just of a physical nature either, people in administration can also cause chaos. For example, someone who is processing transactions might be under the influence and cause errors which could result in a business loss.
The business organisation told Alan that workers who are under the influence, and in external facing positions and are acting in an unpredictable or volatile manner, can also impact on client relationships. Their inability to perform their jobs properly might lead to co-workers having to shoulder an increased workload or an increased level of stress. According to research, one in 10 workers say they have experienced negative effects associated with a co-worker’s misuse of alcohol.
An employer should remove any employee suspected of being affected by drugs or alcohol from a work situation where this could pose a risk, until the employer is satisfied the worker can safely perform their work, said the Ai Group. It is also recommended that employees who are concerned that a co-worker’s drug or alcohol use is affecting their work and/or the safety of others, should document evidence of incidents.
Alan’s article noted that employees in the workplace who are affected by drugs or alcohol could present a safety risk and in that sense it would be prudent for employers, who have identified it as a potential hazard, to take steps to address it. The easiest and most effective way to address the problem is to introduce a drug and alcohol policy. The policy should include training people who can identify issues involved with drugs and alcohol. , and also to become skilled in approaching workers who are suspected of displaying signs of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Some work places provide workers with an anonymous forum to report a concern that they may have with a co-worker’s use of alcohol or drugs. Having a hangover or coming down from drugs at work can be just as problematic as being intoxicated or drugged. Headaches, blurred vision, irritability, problems concentrating, extreme tiredness can create problems.
The article went on to say an important part of introducing a policy is consulting with the employees who are impacted by the policy.
Employers have a legal obligation to address alcohol and other drug issues in the workplace through the ‘duty of care’ provisions in the WHS Act. They must take all reasonable or ‘practicable’ steps to ensure the health and safety of all workers.
The Ai Group said were it not for the random drug and alcohol testing, it would not have been possible to detect employees affected by Ice – or know how serious the problem is today. It said this is because Ice-affected employees might show no unusual behaviour