The Sobering Facts and Facing Them as an Employer

Few things bring your business to a halt more effectively than an employee under the influence.

If you’re a numbers person, you’ll be interested in the figures released in 2016 by the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare. Alcohol, cannabis, amphetamines and heroin continued to be the most common drugs of concern over the past decade, with one in two-hundred Australians seeking treatment for alcohol and drug use in 2014–15.

Some of those people work. It’s possible they work for you, or might do so at some point. This is clearly an issue that has a very direct impact upon our workplace culture.

Alcohol and drugs cost Australian businesses an estimated $6 billion per year in lost productivity, with 2.5 million working days lost every year.

The cost to co-workers is just as significant. One in ten say they have experienced the negative effects of a co-worker’s misuse of alcohol. That might include a reduced capacity to do their job safely, causing an accident or near miss.

All employers have a legal obligation to address alcohol and drug related issues in the workplace. Practicable steps must be taken to ensure the health and safety of all staff, as well as contractors or clients.

Safe Work Australia is the go-to authority on workplace standards. They help ensure we have all the tools we need to keep our employees safe. Their guide, Alcohol and Other Drugs in the Workplace, sets out your responsibilities as an employer, and your obligations with regard to the misuse of alcohol and other drugs.

Safe Work Australia advises employers to develop a Workplace Alcohol and Drugs Policy in consultation with employees. That policy must include initiatives that deal with:

  • Managing health and safety risks
  • Approaching a worker who may be under the influence
  • Reporting alcohol and drug use
  • Delivering information, education and training
  • Offering counselling and support, perhaps in employee assistance programs
  • Conducting disciplinary procedures

Not all of these initiatives are appropriate for every workplace, since the nature and severity of alcohol and drug related hazards varies.

However, having a policy in place provides an employer with the correct pro-active measures to manage a crisis swiftly and safely. This not only helps avoid any costly and stressful outcomes - it could save lives too.

There are many resources for employers looking to implement best practice. Safe Work Australia and the Australian Drug Foundation are excellent places to start.

If you have any doubts, contact a professional who can support you through this process. Look for a consultant with the right expertise, a thorough knowledge of best practice and the Australian legislation governing it.

Don’t run the risk of doing nothing. The law counts on you to be compliant, and so do your staff.

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Saturday, 22 July 2017
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