Substance Misuse

substance misuseALCOHOL IN THE WORKPLACE

Alcohol related harm is a growing concern both regionally and nationally. Evidence would suggest alcohol related harm costs the Northern Ireland economy £900 million annually, with £77.5million lost to presenteeisim at work and £33.1million lost to absenteeism from work.

In Northern Ireland alcohol is the most commonly abused substance, and the majority of people with a drinking problem are in the workplace, but the prospect of tackling when and how much employees drink can be daunting. However acting to prevent problems before they occur can save time in the end and is often more effective than dealing with a problem that becomes too serious to ignore.

EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION ON THE WORKPLACE:

  • Alcohol causes an estimated 3-5% of absences from work, equating to an estimated cost to business, in Northern Ireland, of £238 million;
  • Loss of productivity and poor performance;
  • Lateness and absenteeism;
  • Safety concerns;
  • Bad behaviour or poor discipline;
  • Adverse effects on company image and customer relations;
  • resentment among employees who have to ‘carry’ colleagues whose work declines because of their drinking; and
  • Drinking even small amounts of alcohol before or while carrying out work that is ‘safety critical’ will increase the risk of an accident.

DRUGS IN THE WORKPLACE

Drug misuse is a serious problem for the misuser, the workplace and for co-workers. You could be breaking the law if you knowingly allow drug-related activities in your workplace and you fail to act. It is just as important to know the implications to both your employees and business of not tackling  drug misuse, particularly where safety is involved.
Successfully tackling drug misuse can benefit both your business and your employees. For example by:

  • Saving on the cost of recruiting and training new employees to replace those whose employment might be terminated because of reducing the cost of absenteeism or impaired productivity;
  • Creating a more productive environment by offering support to those employees who declare a drug-related problem, improving employee morale;
  • Reducing the risk of accidents caused by impaired judgement;
  • Enhancing the public perception of your organisation as a responsible employer;
  • Contributing to society’s efforts to combat drug misuse.
    (WWW.HSENI.GOV.UK) 

THE FACTS

•Substance misuse refers to the misuse of alcohol, prescribed drugs, volatile substances and the use of illegal drugs.

  • The Health and Safety Executive’s Drug Misuse at Work booklet suggests that employers can benefit from the introduction of a substance misuse policy by:
  • Reducing the risk of accidents caused by impaired judgement;
  • Creating a more caring working environment by offering support to those employees who declare a drug-related problem thereby improving employee morale.
  • Saving on the costs of recruiting and training employees to replace those whose employment, because or untreated drug misuse, might be terminated;
  • Enhancing the public perception of the organisation as a responsible employer by contributing to society’s efforts to combat drug misuse.

WHAT CAN AN EMPLOYER DO?

Provide and display information on ‘low risk drinking’, drug facts and sources of support in an area that all employees have access to, possibly in the form of posters on the inside of toilet doors or on a notice board in the bathroom.

Develop and implement a policy which views substance misuse as a health problem rather than an immediate cause for disciplinary action or dismissal.

An essential element of dealing with substance misuse in the workplace is not only to encourage safe working practices but also to support those employees with alcohol/drug dependence to seek help. A key factor in a good substance misuse policy is the mechanism to allow employees to be referred to specialist agencies for counselling with the aim of reintegrating them back into the workplace.

The Health and Safety Executive’s Drug Misuse at Work booklet suggests that employers can benefit from the introduction of a substance misuse policy by:

  • Reducing the risk of accidents caused by impaired judgement;
  • Creating a more caring working environment by offering support to those employees who declare a drug-related problem thereby improving employee morale.
  • Saving on the costs of recruiting and training employees to replace those whose employment, because or untreated drug misuse, might be terminated;
  • Enhancing the public perception of the organisation as a responsible employer by contributing to society’s efforts to combat drug misuse.

SOURCES OF SUPPORT