Drugs and alcohol in the workplace – what’s the true cost?


What’s the true cost of drugs and alcohol in the workplace?

In dollar terms, the impact of drugs and alcohol in the workplace is relatively easy to define… And it’s enormous:

  • In a 2013 report entitled ‘The societal costs of alcohol misuse in Australia’, Matthew Manning, Christine Smith and Paul Mazerolle found that alcohol misuse alone costs business around $6 billion in lost productivity each year. The cost to society as a whole was estimated to be $15 billion a year.
  • It’s estimated that Australians chalk up approximately 2.5 million days off work each year due to alcohol and drug misuse.
  • Drug related workplace accidents cost around $1.3 billion a year, half of which is borne by employers.
  • Worldwide, alcohol and drugs are a contributing factor in approximately 15% of work-related injuries.

What is perhaps harder to define, however, and in some cases is intangible, is the non-dollar costs of drugs and alcohol in the workplace. In other words, the short and long term mental and emotional scars that this insidious issue can cause. For example:

  • One in 10 workers say they’ve experienced issues when a co-worker has misused alcohol. These issues can include accidents or near-accidents and the extra hours they’ve been required to work to cover for their co-worker. And the issues can also include violence and abuse. For some employees, the emotional cost may be nothing more than the inconvenience for them and their families of having to work overtime; for others it may cause them to have difficulties performing their job and cause the to resign.
  • The emotional cost to those people who abuse drugs and alcohol. While these people are potentially seen as the cause of the issue they are also victims.
  • It’s important to remember that it’s not just the direct people involved. There is also the emotional and financial cost to the families of employees who abuse drugs and alcohol, and the families of co-workers who are affected by employees who misuse drugs and alcohol.

What can you do to reduce the risk of drugs and alcohol in the workplace?

Firstly, develop and implement a drug and alcohol management plan that includes details such as:

  • The responsibilities of managers, supervisors and employees in relation to drugs and alcohol in the workplace.
  • The type of drug and alcohol testing performed and how often.
  • The procedure employed when an employee provides a positive drug or alcohol test
  • Education for employees.
  • Support for employees with issues relating to drugs and alcohol.

For more information on the development of a drug and alcohol management plan for your workplace, see the Integrity Sampling website or phone us on 1300 SALIVA.

What’s the true cost of drugs and alcohol in the workplace?

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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