Alcohol, Drugs & the workplace

Posted on Sep 13, 2018

It is no secret that use of alcohol and other drugs contribute to serious community and workplace concerns like accidents, violence and death. They also add to the risk of disease and crime rates, as well as affecting relationships and social connectedness. You might just think they apply to ‘heavy’ users of illegal drugs. The reality is a little different.

Costs of alcohol and other drug use in the community

Smoking - Tobacco smoking is the single most preventable cause of deaths in Australia.

Prescription drugs - Prescription drugs are just as likely to be a risk factor for injury, illness and death as other legal or illicit substances.

Alcohol - Excessive alcohol intake, including binge drinking and long term heavy drinking, is a major risk factor for injury, illness and death.

Illicit drugs - Illicit drug use can cause ill health and death and is linked to a range of social harms such as mental illness and suicide.

Workplace costs

Alcohol-related absenteeism alone is estimated to cost between $437 million and $1.2 billion every year. It is estimated that alcohol use contributes to 5% of all workplace deaths.

How workplaces might contribute to the problem

Working conditions that increase worker stress may also affect employee alcohol and drug consumption. Some factors may include:

  • dangerous work
  • critical incidents
  • shift work and long hours
  • low pay
  • boredom
  • job insecurity
  • low job satisfaction
  • poor industrial relations

As people seek to alleviate this stress they may turn to the use of alcohol and other drugs.

What workplaces can do

The major components to achieving safety and health for workers regarding alcohol and other drug related issues are:

  • Putting in place a formal workplace policy on alcohol and other drugs
  • Providing education and training about alcohol and other drugs
  • Providing access to counselling and treatment
  • General health promotion including health checks, mental health and wellbeing awareness and suicide awareness as these areas are often closely linked to alcohol and drug use.

If you feel that you or someone you know are having issues with alcohol or drugs call the Incolink 24/7 Counselling line on 1300 000 129.

Sources: AIHW, NCETA, VicHealth

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