Abuse of alcohol, drugs and other intoxicating substances in the workplace can be a serious issue for health, safety and work performance. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that workers are healthy and safe, so employers must be aware of the dangers of alcohol and drug use in the workplace.

What are the Dangers of Using Drugs and Alcohol While at Work?

Not only does abusing drugs and alcohol lead to serious health problems, anyone who is intoxicated while at work can be a hazard to themselves and others. It is not only illegal drugs that can cause problems in the workplace. Also, completely legal drugs such as alcohol and prescription drugs can be abused which can also cause problems.

Taking drugs and drinking alcohol alters your perception and your abilities, which can have a serious effect in your ability to perform your job correctly and safely. If you come to work under the influence of drugs, this can impair your abilities and your performance and it might even lead to you taking dangerous risks in the workplace or putting others at risk.

This can be a very dangerous situation for drivers, because they are in control of a vehicle and a mistake can lead to serious injury and death for them and their passengers. Also, the same applies to machine operators, construction workers or anyone else who is operating heavy machinery on their job. Also, it is a serious issue for emergency staff and doctors – because a mistake in this profession can cause serious illness, injury or even death for the patient.

Also, employees being intoxicated by drugs and alcohol in the workplace can cause damage to the reputation of the company and the customer relations.

Alcohol and Drugs Have No Place in the Workplace

Unless they are required for a medical condition, drugs and alcohol have no place in the workplace. Of course, your employer will not interfere with your own personal life and if you choose to drink on the weekends that is your decision. Many people who drink or use recreational drugs on the weekend do not perform any differently at their jobs as a result or take more time off for sick leave.

However, the problem occurs when the person’s health begins to suffer or they start to take more time off work because of the effects of the drugs or alcohol.

What is the Difference Between Recreational Use and Misuse?

So when does the line become crossed between having a few drinks with friends on the weekend and having a serious problem? Substance misuse is when the consumption of drugs and alcohol becomes a problem in the user’s life. When it comes to alcohol, this usually includes regular heavy drinking or binge drinking. The use of alcohol or drugs becomes misuse when a person uses the substance so often or in such quantities that they need it in order to function in everyday life. This is when the substance abuse develops into an addiction. When the individual is addicted, their main focus in day to day life will be to obtain more of the substance in order to feel stable.

Those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol will find that their work performance is affected by the addiction. Also, they might have to take more time off work and they can develop mental health issues. When an employee comes to work while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, they are putting themselves at risk as well as the safety of their colleagues.

Why an Employer Should Develop a Drugs and Alcohol Policy

Every employer should put into place an alcohol and drugs policy that will outline how this issue is dealt with in the workplace. Employers will learn how to perform a risk assessment and create a policy like this in their health and safety training courses. Creating a policy will make everything clear and ensure that issues are dealt with appropriately, so that support can be given to workers who have a problem. A drugs or alcohol policy should not be part of a disciplinary policy.

It is important that the health and safety policy regarding alcohol in the workplace should set out the legal obligations of the company. Also, it should make it clear as to whom the policy applies and outline what will be considered alcohol and drug misuse, including any exceptions such as required prescription medications. The policy should also provide information and advice about where employees can obtain help if they feel like they are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Also, any drug and alcohol problem that employees have should be dealt with in complete confidence, so that employees are not afraid of admitting that they have a problem.

If employers suspect an alcohol or drug program, they can bring up the employees poor performance and ask them whether it could be due to a health problem, without mentioning alcohol or drugs. This meeting should always be held in private and should be kept confidential. If the employee begins on a program to get help for their addiction, regular meetings can be arranged to discuss their progress.

When all managers and staff are aware of how the company deals with alcohol and drug related issues, this gives staff members the confidence and assurance to come forward and seek help for themselves – without being afraid of being disciplined and punished. This is why health and safety training for managers is important, so that they will be able to deal with these issues.

Health and Safety Training

It is important that both employers and employees receive the appropriate health and safety training for their industry. This training will involve information about drugs and alcohol in the workplace and how to develop a company policy regarding this.