Speak up about drugs and alcohol in the workplace

It’s not always obvious that an employee could be drunk or under the influence of drugs.

In our blogs we often write about how employers can protect their workplace from the scourge of drugs and alcohol, in part by conducting drug testing and alcohol testing. But what if you, an employee, notices that one of your work colleges shouldn’t be at work? What happens if you suspect they’re affected by drugs or alcohol? You can’t give them a drug or alcohol test, so what should you do?

As discussed by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation on their Alcohol and other drugs in the workplace page, it’s important not to assume that someone is under the influence. It can sometimes be difficult to tell if someone is impaired by drugs or alcohol. They might be unwell or just not feeling themselves.

Here are some other tips on how to deal with someone if you think they may be under the influence:

  • Most importantly, don’t walk away. Speak up and take action.
  • If you feel comfortable, talk to the person and ask them if they are okay. They may even have had a big night the night before and not realise they could still be affected. Above all, stay calm and logical, and offer support and encouragement.
  • Does your workplace have a drug and alcohol policy? If they do, follow the procedures.
  • If you’re unsure and don’t feel comfortable talking to the person, talk to your manager, your health and safety representative, or another person of authority.

Hang on, why’s it up to you to take action about an employee who may be under the influence? Isn’t it up to management to take action and perhaps make sure the employee undergoes drug testing and alcohol testing?

Remember that health and safety in the workplace is everyone’s responsibility, not just your employer’s. In fact, the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 lays out a duty of care for all employees to take reasonable care of themselves and the health and safety of others. Plus, remember that if you don’t take action it might be you that goes home hurt… Or doesn’t go home at all. It’s most certainly in your best interest to take action.

What’s your (drug and alcohol) policy?

One of the bullet points above mentioned a workplace drug and alcohol policy.

It’s a good idea that if you don’t know whether your workplace has a policy that you find out. That’s because, as mentioned by the Alcohol and Drugs Foundation, when it comes to drugs and alcohol different industries and workplaces may have more specific rules. For example, some industries and workplaces may require people driving vehicles to have a zero blood alcohol concentration. Others may conduct drug testing and alcohol testing and this should be clearly detailed in the policy.

Be aware of your rights and responsibilities around alcohol and drugs within your workplace. And stay safe!


It’s not always obvious that an employee could be drunk or under the influence of drugs.

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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