Is your work colleague safe to be a work?

What should you do if you think one of your work colleagues may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Credit Jlhinton

What should you do if you think one of your work colleagues may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Should you report them to a supervisor, tell them to clean up their act, cover for them or simply sweep it under the carpet?

It’s an interesting question and often a dilemma, because in many cases people don’t want to report a colleague and perhaps get them into trouble. However, doing nothing or covering for a colleague is certainly not a good option, because if someone is unfit for work they could injure themselves, someone else or perhaps injure you.

Is it drugs or alcohol?

One of the first questions you should ask yourself in this situation, is whether your work colleague is actually under the influence of alcohol.

Common symptoms you may look for are bloodshot eyes, poor concentration, lack of coordination and slurred speech. However, some of these symptoms can also be caused by other illnesses, a poor night’s sleep, sickness and even stress.

It might be drugs or alcohol, or it might not. You shouldn’t presume and you must never make allegations otherwise it could be you that gets into trouble.

You could perhaps talk to your colleague about your concerns, but this isn’t always advisable either. Many people who have issues with drugs or alcohol are very good at hiding their issues, will deny there is a problem and can become defensive and even aggressive.

Drug and alcohol testing is the only way

While a colleague may be acting quite differently and showing signs that they could be drunk or under the influence of a drug, how can you tell for sure?

There is only one sure way to determine if a person is under the influence and that’s by conducting drug and alcohol testing. While signs and symptoms may lead you to suspect that someone is affected by drugs or alcohol, the only conclusive way to know for sure is to test.

This means talking to your supervisor about your concerns immediately. They’ll then kickstart the procedures outlined in your workplace’s drug and alcohol policy. This is likely to include drug and alcohol testing the employee.

If they are in fact under the influence and record a positive drug or alcohol test, they will face consequences at work, in line with your company’s policies. In some cases, if your workplace has a zero tolerance policy they could even lose their job. Generally, however, they’ll be counselled, be given a warning and provided with support.

Don’t feel guilty

It is natural to feel guilty about reporting a colleague, but you shouldn’t. You are doing the right thing. You are potentially stopping an accident before it occurs and helping to prevent injuries. It’s no different from reporting other safety concerns around the workplace.

Plus, you’ll potentially be initiating your work colleague getting the support they need to get back on track.


What should you do if you think one of your work colleagues may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Credit Jlhinton

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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