Construction Health and Safety Consultancy and CDM Adviser Services

Drinking on the job?
Posted by David Cant on May 26, 2015

Drinking on the job?

Man with magnifying Glas and Risk AssessmentAlthough considered socially acceptable just one generation ago, a cheeky pint or three at lunchtime is now actively discouraged in almost every profession (except perhaps marketing!). A recent study carried quoted by the Daily Star suggests that almost every one of the 2600 workers surveyed had been drunk at work at least once.

And because the survey looked at workers of all ages, it is clear that these workplace drunks are not merely remnants of the 1980s workforce. Nearly one-third of those surveyed admitted to being drunk, or under the influence of alcohol at work, at least once a week.

Risky behaviour increases workplace dangers

One factor many people continue to overlook is the long-lasting effects of alcohol. A mid-week binge, or even a second bottle of wine on a work night, could keep blood alcohol levels over legal limits well into the next day.

This means that not only are employees driving to work drunk, they are also creating additional risks in the workplace. From a tipsy typo, to a mullered machinery mistake, the results could be catastrophic.

In an office, such mistakes could be purely financial or inconvenient, but on a construction site, careless behaviour could have fatal consequences. Operating heavy machinery, or working at heights whilst under the influence of alcohol is a recipe for disaster.

Sites that tolerate such behaviour are likely to experience higher levels of injuries, and potentially fatalities, than those which take a stand against lunchtime drinking.

Not just a nation of boozers

The same survey also revealed that 28% of workers admitted to using drugs at work. Again, this may be a universally acknowledged truth of bankers in the City during the 1980s, but it seems that such behaviours are now increasingly commonplace in all industries – 5% of factory workers admitted to using machinery whilst under the influence of narcotics.

In fact only drivers denied using drink or drugs while at work.

Perhaps most concerning of all for employers were worker attitudes towards sobriety. Several respondents suggested that taking cocaine at work was “harmless”, no different to smoking a cigarette.

Random sobriety testing?

Most employment contracts ban the use of drink and drugs in the workplace, but where a culture of lunchtime visits to the pub exists, many workers will ignore such provisions. To ensure safety levels are maintained, businesses will need to institute a programme of training to help employees understand the risks they present to themselves and their colleagues if they are impaired through the use of drink or drugs.

Where concerns persist, businesses may need to implement a random drink and drug testing regime. Using such a programme should help employees take more responsibility for their actions and raise standards across the workplace. The threat of random drug testing is a powerful deterrent to workplace misbehaviour and shows that you are serious about safety.

So over to you – what is your business policy on drink and drugs? How do you enforce it?


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting. David also Blogs about Health and Safety here Health and Safety Consultants

His aim is to flavour Health and Safety with integrity, served with a side of humour You can find David on - Twitter and Google also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Health and Safety Consultancy, Health and Safety Policy, Health and Safety Services

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