Drugs and Alcohol

by Ian Robinson

The problem

Almost 17 million working days are lost each year due to alcohol misuse alone.

Source: Alcohol Strategy, Department of Health, 2004

‘How big is the problem and how much does it affect my organisation?’ is a question that many directors are asking. While it is impossible to provide a definitive answer without carrying out a full risk assessment of the organisation, there are some national statistics that can provide an indication of the impact that drugs and alcohol may be having on your organisation.

The morning after

People can still be under the influence of drugs and alcohol the morning after and because of this their judgement and skills may be impaired. Whether they are driving a van, a work car or a forklift truck, operating machinery or using computers and making decisions, their reactions will be slowed and mistakes will be made. The physical impact of an accident is obvious, but have you considered the financial impact on your organisation if mistakes of a financial or contractual nature are made?

Some people will react by stating, ‘what members of the work-force do in their spare time is up to them.’ However, when it affects their work, you, as their employer, do have a right to question their behaviour.

Case study

An employer had a team of engineers who were on call-out and therefore took the company vans home at night. One of the members of staff, who had been convicted of a drink driving offence while employed by the company, had been disqualified from driving for 12 months. He had not informed his employer and had continued to drive the company vehicle for a six-month period. Had the employee been involved in an accident, the vehicle insurance would have been invalid.