Impact of AOD on the workplace

Alcohol and other drugs, including prescription or over-the-counter medicine, can affect employee health and a person’s ability to work safely.

Workplace relationships, safety and productivity, as well as business reputation, can also be affected.

  • 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 other persons in the workplace.

Make sure you’re aware of your rights and responsibilities around alcohol and other drugs within your workplace or industry by reading your organisation’s alcohol and drug policy.

Concerned about a co-worker?

If you’re concerned about a co-worker who might be under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, it’s best to follow up with the appropriate person in your organisation. If you notice a pattern of behaviour in a colleague, it’s a good idea to make a note of when incidents happen so you can refer to this when talking to the right person at your workplace.

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. It requires employers to take all reasonable and ‘practicable’ steps to ensure the health and safety of all their workers and any other people who may be affected, such as contractors or clients.

board meeting

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 for alcohol and other drug issues by:

  • implementing a workplace policy which includes how incidents will be managed.
  • providing an Employee Assistance Program to help employees and managers. In addition to alcohol and other drugs, it can include ways to deal with stress, conflict, bullying, etc.
  • taking regular steps to educate employees about alcohol and other drugs, 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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