Addiction Alcohol

What risks does alcohol pose to workplace health and safety?

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The holidays are drawing closer and when people are in a festive mood, they tend to overindulge in things like alcohol. Most people do not realise how long alcohol can remain in their system and the fact that it could impair some of their functions and processes while it remains in their bodies. So they do not necessarily have to drink on the job or drink right before the job for them to pose a risk to your organisation.

What exactly are the risks?

The risks can be divided into three categories: risks to the employee, risks to their colleagues and risks to the organisation. Below is a non-exhaustive list of the risks that they pose to the three groups.

Risk to the employee:

  1. Top among the risks is the one to their health. Alcohol affects an individuals’ mental and physical health adversely.
  2. If their health worsens, they may become unfit to continue with the job which means they would lose their income.
  3. Violence: an individual under the influence of alcohol is more prone to being violent.

Risk to their colleagues

  1. Colleagues could be victims of violent attacks from the employee under the influence.
  2. The person under the influence could cause an accident that might hurt another employee.
  3. The work environment becomes less conducive for work and the morale of your employees start to drop.

Risk to the organisation

  1. If your employee’s health starts to decline because of alcohol consumption, that results in loss of manpower for you and you will have to spend more to make up for that loss.
  2. Accidents can happen that result in injury, loss of lives or loss of equipment.
  3. Reduced organisation productivity on the whole. For example, when the morale of your employees drops or some people have to take on extra workload because of their colleague who has a problem, overall productivity will definitely drop.
  4. Reputational damage: if your organisation is one that has to constantly interact with customers and you have an employee with an alcohol problem as part of the customer service team, you could lose those customers due to erratic behaviour your employee might display.

Mitigating the risks

How do you contain the risks that alcohol poses to your organisation?

  1. Enforce your drug and alcohol policy and provide all necessary and relevant information to employees.
  2. Remove factors that might influence and / or encourage the intake of alcohol on the job.
  3. Establish an Employee Assistance Program which may be designed to manage and deal with issues employees might have and provide counselling and assessment.
  4. Develop a workplace culture that makes it clear of what is and is not allowed at the workplace.
  5. Regular blood testing: if this is already your policy, you can test your employees- maybe monthly, to identify those that have alcohol in their systems.
  6. Reminding your employees of the risks they pose to themselves and the organisation if they indulge in alcohol.


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