February 16, 2017
This following information is a guide for employees about alcohol and drugs in the workplace. (If you are an employer, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) can assist you through its Workplace Services.)
If you are hungover or coming down from drugs at work, it can be just as bad as being intoxicated. You are less effective and productive; this can impact both your work and that of co-workers.
The use of alcohol and other drugs can impact on workplaces in a number of ways, affecting relationships, safety and productivity.
The following statistics demonstrate the extent of this impact in Australia:
If you’ve had a big night, you may still be drunk the next day; this can make it dangerous to be at work.
Sobering up takes time. Hangover cures such as cold showers, doing exercise, strong coffee, or vomiting will not speed up the process. While these ‘cures’ may make you feel better, they won’t change your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
There is always a level of risk when using any drug including prescription or over-the-counter medications. For instance, benzodiazepines (e.g. Valium®) and strong painkillers (e.g. codeine) can impact your work. This is particularly the case for drugs you haven’t taken before. As drug reactions vary from person to person, it’s important to understand the possible side effects and monitor whether you are fit for work.
Follow your doctor’s advice when taking prescription drugs and discuss any side-effects and how this might impact on your work.
An alcohol or drug problem isn’t always measured by how much, how many or what type of drugs you use, but by how the drug affects your life and the lives of the people around you. And this is often a matter of personal perception.
Here are some examples of a drug problem:
If a co-worker’s use of alcohol or other drugs is affecting you, then they have a problem. However, they may not be aware of it, so you may need to talk to them or their manager.
If you are concerned that a co-worker is drunk or high while at work, it is important to be very sure that the person is under the influence of drugs — and not unwell — before you take action. It is very difficult to know if someone is impaired by the use of drugs or if someone is misusing them. Read through the drug facts pages to learn more about the effects of different drugs.
If you are concerned that a co-worker’s drug use is affecting their work or the safety of others, it can be helpful to document instances as they occur.
If your workplace has an alcohol and drug policy, follow the procedures outlined.
If your workplace does not have an alcohol policy, you may wish to discuss the issue with:
If you choose to talk to your co-worker directly about your concerns, there is no easy way to begin the conversation. The following suggestions may help:
It’s important to consider how your use of alcohol or drugs may impact your co-workers. The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 imposes a duty on all workers not to recklessly endanger others in the workplace.
Different industries and workplaces may have more specific rights and responsibilities for employers and employees detailed in a separate policy. For example, some industries and workplaces may require people driving vehicles to have a zero blood alcohol concentration. Others may have policies about testing employees for alcohol or drugs.
Make sure you are aware of your rights and responsibilities around alcohol within your workplace or industry.
Your employer has a legal obligation to address alcohol and other drug issues in the workplace through the duty-of-care provisions in the OHS Act. These provisions require employers to take reasonable or practicable steps to ensure the health and safety of all workers, contractors, clients and others who could be affected by the actions of the employer.
The Alcohol and Drug Foundation works with employers to help them develop alcohol and drugs policies, train employees about alcohol and drugs, and how for instance to organise safe parties. If you think your workplace could benefit from these services, put your manager or human resources department in contact with the Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s Workplace Services.