This week is North American Occupational Safety and Health Week. This observance exists to educate the public on the benefits of safe workplace. So why write about it here? How many of you work? How many individuals go to work each day after drinking or using drugs? How does drinking and drug use affect the workplace and other employees there?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicates: “…of the 17.2 million illicit drug users aged 18 or older in 2005, 12.9 million (74.8 percent) were employed either full or part time.” Their research also shows: “…between 10 and 20 percent of the nation’s workers who die on the job test positive for alcohol or other drugs.” The 2010 Bureau of Labor statistics data shows: :…there were 3,670,800 injuries on the job.” Conservatively, one could estimate that 367,080 or ten percent of those injuries were drug or alcohol related.
Drug and alcohol use affects a person physically, mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally. Alcohol and drug use affects the workplace in an increased use of sick time, increased workload of co-workers, and a decrease in productivity when the employee is at work. Alcohol and drug use is also known to decrease concentration and attention, decrease motor control, alertness, and coordination, and makes it difficult for individuals to make good decisions. Drug and alcohol use before or during work has also been shown to slow down one’s reflexes, decrease an individual’s ability to get along with others, and lowered an individual’s ability to manage stress. All of these changes can lead to an increase in workplace injuries and fatalities.
So how do you prevent workplace injuries related to drug and alcohol use? A Drug Free Workplace program appears to be a key component. Many employers have instituted drug free workplace policies and programs during recent years. This is a comprehensive plan that puts a system in place to keep the workplace safer for employers and employees. A strong Drug Free Workplace plan has a clearly outlined, well distributed policy and provides education to supervisors and employees regarding basic drug and alcohol education, the company policy, and opportunities for obtaining assistance with an alcohol or drug problem. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is often available for employees to reach out to obtain help if they do have a substance abuse problem. The final component of a successful drug free workplace policy includes drug testing for all employees.
Do you have a policy and training in place in your workplace? Do you think it has made a difference?