Are you considering alcohol testing, because alcohol abuse is becoming a problem in your workplace? If it is, then you are in the company of countless employers the world over who have to deal with the issues that alcohol at work brings with it.
Alcohol costs Australian businesses an estimated $3.5 billion annually in lost productivity and puts the health and safety of everyone at work at risk as well. So it’s only right for any CEO, HR or safety officer to be concerned about an alcohol problem in the workplace. Fortunately there are very effective solutions to dealing with alcohol at work.
What is Alcohol?
Alcohol is a liquid depressant substance produced through the process of fermentation. The psychological and physiological dependence on alcohol is known as alcoholism and often result in chronic diseases and disruption of interpersonal and social relationships. When a person is under the influence of alcohol, their brain, central nervous system, liver, and heart are affected.
In Australia, alcohol is more than just a recreational drink. It is the most commonly consumed psychoactive, or mood-altering, drug that people enjoy, especially during parties and social events. In 2007, 41.3% of drinkers consumed alcohol on a weekly basis. It has been reported that the consumption of alcohol is the top contributing factor of deaths in Australia.
Taking a closer look at alcohol
The actual alcohol substance is colourless and tasteless. However, when combined with other ingredients, it produces varied colour and taste, making up the long list of alcoholic beverages in the world. Examples of alcoholic drinks are wine, beer, rum, vodka, and spirits among others.
As a drink, alcoholic beverages are consumed through the mouth, where the alcohol is directly absorbed into the bloodstream when it reaches the stomach and small intestine. Then it gets evenly distributed throughout the body.
What alcohol does to the body
Drinking alcohol, whether large amounts on seldom occasions or small dosages on frequent instances, can seriously take a toll on your body and health. In fact, it affects different parts of the body, including the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and the digestive system, as follows.
- Alcohol obstructs the brain functions, particularly the communication pathways and areas of perception and behavior.
- Drinking too much and over a long period of time can damage the heart and cause conditions such as high blood pressure, arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, and stroke.
- In addition, it also can also severely affect the liver, causing problems and inflammations, such as fibrosis, cirrhosis, and alcoholic hepatitis.
- Alcohol can damage the pancreas and bring about pancreatitis, the harmful swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that restricts digestion of food.
- Finally, alcohol can bring about cancer in some parts of the digestive system, including the mouth, esophagus, throat, and liver.
The Impact of Alcohol at Work
Considering the effects of alcohol on the body that we have enumerated above, there is no doubt that the impact of alcohol at work is very significant. For one, a worker who has an alcohol problem will most likely commit tardiness and absenteeism on a constant basis. Poor decision-making and loss of efficiency will also affect their job performance, leading to lower productivity.
An even greater alcohol at workplace concern is the safety risk that employees impaired by alcohol pose to everyone at work. Far too many alcohol-related accidents have already occurred, especially when the impaired employee was tasked with operating machinery or driving a vehicle for the company.
In addition to the injuries and deaths that alcohol at work can cause, employers will also have to pay Workman’s Compensation claims that arise from such incidents. In many cases, workers involved in such incidents also file a case in court, which means the cost to employers will considerably skyrocket with the litigation fees alone.
What to Do About Alcohol at Work
The best way to address alcohol at workplace concerns is to develop and establish a clear and well thought-out drug and alcohol policy for the workplace. It is also essential for such a policy to make stipulations for a drug & alcohol testing program, as it is the only way for employers to determine if a worker is impaired by alcohol at work.
Alcohol testing is usually done on an employee who has been involved in an accident, although employers can also reserve the right to perform an alcohol test on an employee for reasonable suspicion of alcohol use.
At present, the three most commonly used alcohol testing methods are:
- Breathalyser testing – Commonly used by police to check drivers for intoxication, the breathalyser test is also becoming popular among employers to test for alcohol intoxication at work because it delivers practically instant results. One’s overall blood alcohol and intoxication level can be detected by this handheld and portable device.
- Urine testing – This testing method is capable of detecting alcohol in the urine for up to two days after its consumption.
- Saliva testing – Easily the most convenient and least invasive method for alcohol testing, saliva tests are commonly used by companies, and the results they return are usually quick and accurate.
Tips to Detect Alcohol Abuse at the Workplace
Detecting abuse of alcohol at work is never easy, despite signs that many would call “obvious” ones. That’s because most of these “obvious” signs can also be indicators of problems or issues other than alcohol abuse. Then again, while none of these signs is evidence of alcohol abuse by itself, a worker is who is exhibiting two or more of the visible signs listed below usually indicates that they are, indeed, facing an alcohol problem. These employees should then be made to undergo a drug and alcohol test.
- Unkempt appearance
- Smell of alcohol on breath and skin
- Irrational behaviour
- Bloodshot eyes
- Sleeping on duty
- Staggering or unsteady gait
- Temper outbursts
- Aggressive behaviour
Developing a Comprehensive Alcohol Safe Workplace Program
The best way to protect against alcohol abuse is to have a solid drug and alcohol policy in place. This can then be followed up with the right programs, staff education, and drug and alcohol testing. If your company is interested in developing a drug and alcohol safe workplace and getting further information about alcohol testing, please get in touch with us today for a confidential discussion.