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Drugs and alcohol at the workplace: Preventing the dangers

Drugs and alcohol at the workplace: Preventing the dangers

Adults in Australia spend a substantial portion of their lives in the workplace. As of August 2023, 64.5% or 14 million Australians participate in the national workforce. This makes the workplace a cornerstone in the lives of millions of Australians for economic activity as well as social growth.

With this statistic in mind, it becomes clear that the workplace should be a safe space that is conducive to productivity, free from any negative influence of drugs and alcohol, as the presence of these substances in the workplace causes losses that is estimated to be around $2 billion annually.

The dangers of drugs and alcohol at the workplace by the numbers

Most Australians who consume alcohol, tobacco and other illicit drugs are known to be employed, with 38% of them admitting to drinking alcohol at risky levels. This percentage is higher than that of the general population (38% vs. 32%).

The abuse of drugs and alcohol was also found to be a major cause of absenteeism from work, resulting in approximately $6.8 billion lost annually.

The same study also found that illicit drug use was higher among working Australians than among the general population at 19% against 16%.

1 in 20 Australian workers have admitted to working under the influence of alcohol at one point in their career. Alcohol is also found to be the cause of 11% of all workplace accidents and injuries.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation of Australia (ADF) also highlighted some key industries where the consumption of alcohol and other drugs was more prevalent. These industries were construction, financial services, hospitality and transport. Construction and transport are both safety-sensitive industries that require an added measure of safety due to the nature of the work.

On top of the physical health and safety risks brought about by drug and alcohol problems in the workplace, the abuse of these substances increases the risks of developing mental health issues.

The most commonly abused illicit drugs in Australia can be seen below:

  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy
  • Hallucinogens 

The use of all these drugs also saw an increase from the previous year, as reported in the National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

What causes workplace alcohol and drug abuse?

Some reasons for workplace alcohol and drug abuse could be because of the prevalence and ease of alcohol at the workplace. This could sometimes be because of the working culture that may allow alcohol in the workplace.

It’s important to create a clear and concise workplace drug and alcohol policy to deter the use of these harmful substances and communicate it effectively with team members to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

A more serious underlying cause of workplace alcohol or drug use is addiction. When individuals are addicted to substances, they tend to lose control over how much they consume, which could spill over into their professional lives.

ADF also highlighted work stress and poor working conditions (long hours, isolated shifts, low-level supervision, etc) as other potential causes of alcohol and drug abuse at the workplace.

How to keep my workplace free from drugs and alcohol?

Keeping your workplace free from drugs can be done through an array of different methods, which mainly include communicating a policy, adopting measures to identify individuals who suffer from substance addiction, and providing support to recovering addicts who wish to better their lives by improving drinking patterns.

As a person conducting business or employment, it is your duty to ensure that your workplace and people are kept safe during working hours. Below is a breakdown of the measures mentioned above to keep your workplace safe and free from drugs and alcohol.

Create a clear and concise alcohol and drug testing policy at work

When writing up a workplace alcohol and drug policy, it’s important to begin with a clear purpose and scope. Outline the purpose of the policy and your organisation’s commitment to maintaining a safe, productive and substance-free workplace.

The policy should also outline details of drug testing that should be conducted regularly in a safety-sensitive workplace or as part of a pre-employment screening.

Conduct alcohol and drug testing using breathalysers and drug test kits

Your organisation’s workplace policy on drugs and alcohol should clearly outline that testing will be conducted on all employees through saliva, urine, or breath tests. Clarify the substances that will be tested to ensure that there is a clear procedure in place that also includes an appeal process and confidentiality.

Andatech offers free consultation to help employers create a clear and concise alcohol and drug testing policy, as well as offering advice on the best alcohol and drug testing devices that would be most suitable to match every organisation’s unique needs.

Provide education, treatment and support to employees

Emphasise your organisation’s commitment to a healthier and safer workplace by providing resources and support to employees dealing with substance abuse issues. Establish an employee assistance programme and always have a positive mindset when dealing with individuals struggling with substance abuse, as it can be a trying time for them, and seeking help is something that comes with a negative stigma.

If possible, do offer alternative treatment options, including support services, rehabilitation and more.

Andatech for drug and alcohol testing solutions

Apart from free consultation, Andatech also offers high-quality drug and alcohol testing solutions in the form of Australian Standards-certified breathalysers, drug test kits that comply with Australian Standards, on-site testing, and breathalyser calibration conducted in our NATA-accredited calibration centre in Melbourne.

Browse our extensive catalogue of drug and alcohol testing solutions to help create a safer working environment for your workplace today.