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Alcohol in the workplace.

Alcohol in the workplace. (Last Updated On: September 30, 2016)

In Australia, the use of alcohol has a significant influence on the health and wellbeing of workers. In workplaces where there is increasingly a culture that is accepting of regular alcohol use, or is tolerant of excessive alcohol use, workers are more likely to be at risk of alcohol-related harm. Alarmingly, alcohol costs Australian workplaces an estimated $3.5 billion annually in lost productivity.

Employers have a duty of care to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for all workers. The use of alcohol becomes a health and safety issue if a person’s ability to exercise judgment, coordination, motor control and alertness is affected, leading to an increased risk of injury. Further, the impairment of behaviour can cause affected employees to injure themselves or others. The alcohol-affected person may not be able to make an accurate assessment of their fitness for work due to intoxication or hangover effects.

Other implications employers may be faced with include lateness, inefficiency and absenteeism, lost time and production from dangerous incidents and damage to equipment and other property.

Employers are well placed to respond to and create supportive and healthy workplace environments and safe workplace culture, aimed at preventing and managing alcohol-related harm which benefits both the workplace and individual employees.

Whether workplace safety, productivity or employee health and wellbeing forms part of your workplace’s rationale for responding to alcohol-related harm, a safe workplace culture around alcohol provides a number of benefits for workplaces:

  • a safer working environment with decreased risk of accidents, injuries and fatalities
  • compliance with health and safety legislation
  • increasing employee performance and productivity
  • reducing absenteeism
  • decreasing staff turnover
  • reduced reputational damage
  • improving work relations and staff morale
  • improving health and wellbeing of all employees

Developing an alcohol and other drugs policy.

The first step for employers in dealing constructively with an alcohol hazard in their workplace is to develop a policy which is included in all employee handbooks. Comprehensive workplace alcohol and other drug policies may apply to all workers in the workplace and include prevention, education, counselling and rehabilitation arrangements.

Approaching a worker who may be under the influence.

Approaching a person who is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs requires skill and sensitivity to achieve the best outcome for all in the workplace. When establishing a policy, consideration should be given to designating and training persons to approach workers who are displaying signs of being under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Suitable persons may include managers, supervisors, health and safety representatives or other persons who have appropriate knowledge, experience and/or qualifications such as counselling. It is important that designated persons are aware of the most effective style of approach.

Disciplinary procedure.

A procedure for the counselling and, if necessary, discipline of employees should be consistent with existing awards, agreements and other disciplinary measures which apply in their workplace. Disciplinary action may include termination of employment taking into account the seriousness of the breach.

If you are a business owner and you are unsure of the relevant steps to take in order to investigate the misconduct of any of your staff, call Australia’s leading workplace relations specialist,  Employsure today on 1300 651 415.

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