Social Impact of Alcohol and Drug Use in the Workplace
Ben-Gourion I. Mestman, Ph.D.
February 26, 2008
The rationale for addressing alcohol and other drug related harm in workplaces is based on the recognition that most people are in employment and many people consume drugs particularly alcohol. Therefore, the workplace is likely to reflect the alcohol and other drug issues experienced in the general community. Alcohol and other drugs burden individuals, industry and society in terms of health, social and economic costs and as such signal a major public health problem.
The workplace presents particular challenges when attempting to address alcohol and other drug related issues, in part due to potential for serious harm arising from accidents, injuries and productivity implications. Alcohol and other drug related harm in the workplace may manifest in terms of physical harm, such as fatalities and injuries, and productivity related implications, such as a reduction in the available workforce or poor performance.
There is some evidence of employee’s under-estimating or discounting the effects of alcohol and other drugs on their work. For example, Allsop states that: Paradoxically, it is not the relatively small number of very heavy drinkers in the workplace who are associated with the greater level of harm. Rather, it is the much larger group of usually moderate drinkers who may occasionally drink hazardously who are associated with the greatest amount of harm in the workplace. (Allsop, 1987).
In addition, alcohol and other drug adversely impact workplace culture and morale and the health and welfare of the workforce. Alcohol, like many other health issues is not compartmentalized into work and non-work settings. Alcohol and other drug use are but one of many challenges workplaces must confront. The workplace does present particular challenges due to the potential for serious harms, including social and...