Substance use and abuse constitute a real threat to the safety, health and welfare of people in the workplace; both to the abuser and also to other workers who might be affected by their acts either intentional or unintentional. In most cases the abuse takes place in the employees own time rather than during working hours. Many employers are aware that the use of alcohol and drugs can affect the safety and well-being of people that are driving as part of their employment, operating machinery, working at height, etc. Adopt policies that ban consumption of intoxicants on work premises and during working hours. The presence of substance abusers in the workplace can cause significant health and safety problems including stress among co-workers. Workplace injuries and fatal accidents have happened as a consequence of an intoxicated worker acting erratically.
Employers have a duty to ensure that employees are not under the influence of an intoxicant (an ‘intoxicant’ includes alcohol and drugs and combinations of drugs and alcohol) to an extent which could endanger safety, health and welfare at work. Employers who knowingly allow an employee under the influence of an intoxicant to continue to work in the workplace and put that person or others at risk could be prosecuted.
If substance or alcohol abuse is suspected employers should develop a Workplace Drugs and Alcohol Policy and put it into practice. The aims of the policy should be to:
- prevent drugs and alcohol problems by raising awareness
- provide guidance on the symptoms
- underline the effects on work and health due to the consequences of both drugs and alcohol.
- to seek to identify a problem at an early stage, minimise risks to the health and safety of the employee and potentially safeguard the health and safety of fellow employees and others.
- recognise drugs and alcohol problems as medical conditions, which are potentially treatable
- to provide the means whereby those who have a problem can seek and be offered help in confidence.
- to provide competent assistance and support to employees with such problems in the aim of reintegrating them back into work.