Impact of AOD on the workplace

Alcohol and other drugs (including prescribed, or over the counter medicine) can affect employee health and a person’s ability to work safely. It also impacts workplaces in several ways, including affecting relationships, safety, productivity and business reputation.

  • Alcohol and other drugs cost Australian workplaces an estimated $6 billion per year in lost productivity.1
  • Australian workers admitted to taking almost 11.5 million sick days as a result of their alcohol and/or drug use.2
  • 1 in 10 workers say they have been affected by a co-worker's use of alcohol. For example, a reduced ability to do their own job, involvement in an accident or close-call, and having to work extra hours to cover for a co-worker.3
Open plan office with computers

Employee responsibilities

It’s important to consider how your use of alcohol or drugs may impact on your co-workers. The OHS Act 2011 imposes a duty on all workers not to recklessly endanger any other persons in the workplace.

Make sure you are aware of your rights and responsibilities around alcohol and other drugs within your workplace or industry, by reading your alcohol and drug policy.

Concerned about a co-worker?

If you are concerned about a co-worker who might be under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, it is best to follow up with the appropriate person in your organisation based on the organisation’s alcohol and drug policy. If you are noticing a pattern of behaviour in someone, it is a good idea to take note of when incidents happen so that you can refer to this when talking to the appropriate person in your organisation.

If your workplace does not have an alcohol policy you may wish to discuss the issue with:

  • your health and safety representative
  • a member of the health and safety team or other formal workplace committee
  • your manager, supervisor or employer.

Employer responsibilities

Employers have a legal obligation to address alcohol and other drug issues in the workplace through the ‘duty of care’ provisions in the OHS Act 2011. These provisions require employers to take all reasonable and ‘practicable’ steps to ensure the health and safety of all workers and any other people who may be affected by the actions of the employer, such as contractors or clients.

Kitchen worker pouring bulk sauce over pasta

Effective responses

A response to alcohol and other drugs in the workplace should be tailored to suit the needs and situation of the individual workplace and incorporate policy, education, training, counselling and treatment.

Workplaces can be prepared to respond to related issues by:

  1. Implementing a workplace policy on alcohol and other drugs which includes how incidents will be managed.
  2. Providing an Employee Assistance Program to help employees and managers address AOD issues (this shouldn’t be limited to alcohol and other drugs, but also include ways to deal with stress, conflict, bullying, etc.).
  3. Taking regular steps to educate employees about AOD, including any potential impacts at work, at home and to employees’ long-term health and wellbeing.

More information

SafeWork NSW 13 10 50.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland 1300 362 128

WorkSafe Victoria 1800 136 089

WorkSafe ACT (02) 6207 3000

SafeWork SA 1300 365 255

NT WorkSafe 1800 019 115

WorkSafe WA 1300 307 877

WorkSafe Tasmania 1300 366 322

  1. Manning M, Smith C, Mazerolle P. The societal costs of alcohol misuse in Australia. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice. 2013(454):1.
  2. Roche A, Pidd K, Kostadinov V. Alcohol- and drug-related absenteeism: a costly problem. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2016;40(3):236-8.
  3. Dale CE, Livingston MJ. The burden of alcohol drinking on co-workers in the Australian workplace. 2010:138.

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