Drinking culture within the construction industry

In Australian society, alcohol has a multifaceted role, with most Australians drinking alcohol for “enjoyment, relaxation and sociability” and most drinking at levels that have few negative effects (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2009, p. 1).

However, particular groups (such as young men) are at higher risk for negative effects. The Australian construction industry is male dominated, and traditional masculine stereotypes (e.g., stoicism, self-reliance, and suppression of emotion) are often dominant (Mackenzie, 2008).

These workplaces can be particularly demanding environments as construction companies operate in a competitive market, with slim profit margins and tight project completion deadlines (Lingard & Francis, 2009).

While a causal link has not been established between the construction industry and harmful alcohol consumption, previous studies indicate that it can co-occur (as is also evident in other industries such as hospitality, mining, and retail; Pidd, Berry, et al., 2006).

Construction industry apprentices are predominantly males between the ages of 15 and 25 years. Apprentices are new entrants into the industry who, in their roles, have to become accustomed to the responsibility of work, the requirements of their particular job, workplace mores, and negotiating collegial relationships, while balancing the training requirements of their apprenticeship.

For many young apprentices, their period of apprenticeship can coincide with a life stage transition (e.g., including moving out of home, managing money, establishing intimate relationships; Corney & Du Plessis, 2011).

For many young men, this period of transition from school to work corresponds with a developmental stage often associated with alcohol experimentation, which typically “peaks during the period of mid-to-late adolescence” (Pidd, Boeckmann, & Morris, 2006, p. 354), and harmful drinking becomes a “rite of passage” into adulthood (Harnett, Thom, Herring, & Kelly, 2000).

Coupled with industry and age, gender also presents as a factor in harmful drinking. The most recent Australian data indicate that between 2007 and 2008 a higher proportion of men over 18 years drank at more harmful levels (15%) than women (12%; Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012), and alcohol use disorders are highly prevalent among young adult males (Teesson et al., 2010).

Authors have also linked harmful levels of alcohol consumption with being male and the male role: Drinking is seen as an event to be shared with other men (Capraro, 2000), and it has been a way for men to enact their masculine identity and affirm male togetherness (Mullen, Watson, Swift, & Black, 2007).

Expectations of male behavior have been deeply linked to the use of alcohol and a “license to drink to intoxication,” whereas not drinking has been seen as “weak” and “feminine” (Mullen et al., 2007, p. 153).

According to Lindsay (2012), “Excessive drinking has been traditionally linked to displays of a macho version of masculine identity alongside engaging in barroom aggression and violence” (p. 236).

Triggers for alcohol-fuelled violence in young men often include saving face, protecting honor, fighting for excitement/enjoyment, and emotional reactions to perceived threats (Lindsay, 2012).

 

If you or your company is interested in learning more about workplace breathalysers and how you may mitigate potential instances of alcohol consumption during work hours, do browse our collection here:

 

Source: 

Harmful Drinking and Experiences of Alcohol-Related Violence in Australian Male Construction Industry Apprentices (du Plessis, Corney, and Brunside, 2013)