Alcohol in the Workplace
Alcohol is not only a personal problem; it is also an economic one. Australian businesses lose more than $6 billion every year due to alcohol abuse. Aside from that, alcohol is also a danger to the health and safety of everyone in the workplace.
Alcohol at work is a problem that you must address immediately and efficiently.
Before diving into the solution, let us learn more about alcohol to better understand the gravity of the dangers that it poses.
The Definition of Alcohol
Alcohol is a liquid that is formed when yeast ferments the sugars in various ingredients. It is categorised as a depressant drug and is colourless and odourless in its purest form. Alcohol is the substance in wine, beer, and various spirits that cause drunkenness.
How Alcohol Affects Your Body
Alcohol is categorised as a ‘sedative-hypnotic’ drug. It has the ability to depress the central nervous system if consumed in large quantities. In addition, alcohol also interferes with the pathways of the brain which can lead to mood and behavioural changes.
The use of alcohol can also have the following physical effects depending on the tolerance of an individual:
- Loose Bowel Movement
- Stomach aches
- Difficulty in breathing
- Impaired Judgement
- Slurred Speech
- Vision and Hearing Distortion
- Passing out
- In extreme cases, can cause alcohol poisoning, coma, and even death
Long Term Effects of Alcohol
The long term effects of alcohol have been well documented over the years. Alcohol abuse can leave you with some serious ailments and diseases. A common fatal disease associated with alcohol abuse is liver damage and cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis is a disease which causes the liver to replace healthy tissue with scar tissue. This will cause the liver to stop functioning properly because the scar tissue obstructs the blood flow as well as the processing of nutrients, drugs, and various natural toxins. Other diseases and ailments normally attributed to long term alcohol abuse are:
- Heart disease and stroke
- Decrease in sperm production for males
- Intestinal ulcers
- High blood pressure
- Slow brain development
Alcohol at Work
Alcohol at the workplace can lead to increased on-the-job injuries and violence.
According to a paper published by the Australian Institute of Criminology, the cost of alcohol abuse to Australian business productivity is $6.046 billion dollars.
While consuming alcohol is normal at social gatherings and after office dinners, drinking in moderation is still important to prevent untoward incidents due to alcohol.
If you suspect that a colleague has been drinking at work, report this to your supervisor or HR manager. Make sure the person is not allowed to operate any heavy machinery.
There are a few signs to watch out for if you suspect that a co-worker may be drinking on the job.
- Odour of alcohol in the person’s breath or skin
- Keeps on falling asleep on the job
- Eyes are bloodshot
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Frequent tardiness and absenteeism
- Fast mood swings
- Violent outbursts
- Sudden negative change in personal hygiene
- Slurred speech and sluggishness
- Aggressive behaviour towards other co workers
Alcohol Testing in the Workplace
Help Eliminate Alcohol at the Workplace
Alcohol at work is something that should be addressed with a clear and comprehensive drug and alcohol policy. You can then enforce this policy with an easy to manage drug and alcohol testing program.
Creating and executing and alcohol safety programs within your company has many advantages:
- Educate employees on the ill effects of alcohol (and drug) abuse
- Enhance safety
- Increase productivity
- Reduce absenteeism
- Decrease employee turnover
- Significantly reduce likelihood of criminal behaviour, abuse and violence
- Improve staff morale
Testing for Alcohol at Work
Employee alcohol testing is the most effective way to enforce your comprehensive drug and alcohol policy. Ideally you carry these tests out as part of a regular program.
Employers usually test an employee who has been involved in an accident. However, you can also reserve the right to perform regular alcohol tests at work. This can be random tests or specific on employees where you have reasonable suspicion of alcohol abuse.
Most importantly, your drug and alcohol policy needs to govern how you carry out alcohol testing frequency and randomisation.
Methods of Testing
At present, the three most commonly used alcohol testing methods are:
- Breathalyser testing – We all know this from the random police checks on our roads. The handheld and portable devices can detect a person’s overall blood alcohol and intoxication levels. Breathalyser testing is also becoming popular among employers to test for alcohol intoxication at work. Its major benefit is that it delivers practically instant results.
- Urine testing – This testing method is capable of detecting alcohol in the urine for up to two days after its consumption.
- Saliva testing – Easily the most convenient and least invasive method for alcohol testing. Companies typically use saliva tests, and the results they return are quick and accurate.
If your company is in need or wants to learn more about creating an alcohol and drug safe workplace, then feel free to give us a call.