Common High-Hazard Employment Factors which can lead to Drug or Alcohol Dependency

When not employed in a high-hazard work environment, it can be difficult to assess factors such as stress level, labor intensity, coworker interaction, lower management-employee interaction, and actual physical danger. While first-hand knowledge of all of these factors is not required in order to successfully run a corporation, employer-employee relations, and therefore productivity level, can improve by keeping some of these factors in mind.

Stress levels are not only high in hazardous industries, but can increase based upon the speed of production or physical movement within these industries.[1] Hard physical labor does not necessarily increase stress levels, but quick and time-dependent labor certainly does. It is during fast movement that production, machinery and personal mistakes are more likely to occur, endangering employees even further. Also, quick, active movement triggers adrenaline secretion, which tells the body that there is a potential threat. The combination of these factors keeps stress levels high in industries such as aviation and mining.

Coworker interaction is another important factor in the possibility of drug or alcohol abuse in hazardous industries. This is commonly known as “drama,” and affects relations between coworkers and between different layers of management. These interactions during stressful and hazardous labor tend to be accompanied by raised voices, minor threats, cursing, visible frustration, anger and power-plays. Whether or not your employees are testing positive in drug and alcohol screening, danger increases when the drama of the workplace increases.

Temperamental or emotionally-unbalanced employees can become explosive and unpredictable under these circumstances. Management can induce strong feelings of bitterness or resentment in their staff by abusing power-plays and threats.[2] In either of these cases, drug or alcohol abuse is more likely to occur in order to stimulate the neurological reward system within the brain.

Keeping drug and alcohol abuse at a minimum involves taking greater personal responsibility for the social and emotional interactions of the hard-labor employees. While substance abuse can be illegal or go against company regulations, employees are more likely to engage in it when they feel that this is necessary in order to maintain emotional balance while they are in their hazardous working environment.[3]

Another, less controllable factor is if members of staff begin employment with a preexisting substance abuse addiction. This can be partially eliminated with pre-employment screening, but this possibility cannot be entirely foreseen since some employees refrain from substance abuse while looking for a job.

Keeping your staff in reasonable stress conditions can eliminate much of the substance abuse occurring in their working environment. High-hazard industries, such as mining, may use labor unions to effectively communicate with workers, but a more personal approach may be just as effective when dealing with smaller groups of employees.

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    1. “Triggering of Acute Myocardial Infarction by Heavy Physical Exertion – Protection Against Triggering by Regular Exertion.” The New England Journal of Medicine. N.p., 2 Dec. 1993. Web. 18 Jan. 2011.
    2. Goodman, Gerald. “A Fragmented Patient Safety Concept: The Structure and Culture of Safety Management in Healthcare.” Heldref Publications. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.,3,6;journal,31,54;linkingpublicationresults,1:119927,1
    3. Beck, Aaron T.. Cognitive therapy of substance abuse . New York: Guilford Press, 1993. Print.

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