Conspiracy of Silence in the Workplace

Screening Tests, Pre Screening, Breathalyser Recalibration ServiceWhat is meant by a Conspiracy of Silence

Most people have had the experience in the workplace where everyone knows that a colleague has an alcohol abuse problem, but no one says anything. They indulge in a conspiracy of silence.

According to Wikipedia “conspiracy of silence, or culture of silence, relates to a condition or matter which is known to exist, but by tacit communal unspoken consensus is not talked about or acknowledged.[1]

There are many reasons for this conspiracy of silence in the workplace. We hear comments such as

  • It’s not my problem, I just work here.
  • But he’s my friend and colleagues.
  • I don’t want her to lose her job.
  • He’s not that drunk.
  • It’s only a hangover.
  • Everyone takes a drink.
  • The work still gets done.

Why we should be concerned about alcohol abuse in the workplace

High risk alcohol consumption in Australia has risen steadily since 1995 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In 1995 8.2% of persons aged 18 years and older drank alcohol at a high risk level, this increased to 10.8% and in 2004/5 it was 13.4%. This equates to one in every eight adults drinking at a high risk level.[2]

In the workplace we can expect the same sort of alcohol abuse rate. In a workforce of 100 there would probably be 13 people who abuse alcohol.

The National Health Survey has also identified a trend of under 18 year olds consuming high risk levels on alcohol abuse and the survey planned for 2011 will be reporting on alcohol consumption in people aged 15 years and older.

According to the International Labour Organization 3% to 5% of the working population are alcohol dependent and 25% are risk drinkers.[3]

Consequences for work performance of alcohol abuse

International studies have identified the consequences of excessive alcohol use (or alcohol abuse) for work performance.

Some of these are:

  • Increase in absenteeism
  • Increase in work accidents
  • Decline in work performance
  • Poor relationships with co-workers and supervisors

Certain occupations have also been identified as high risk occupations in relation to alcohol abuse. Among these occupations are:

  • Underground miners
  • Motor mechanics
  • Long distance drivers
  • Travelling sales representatives

It is your problem

If you look at the effects of alcohol abuse in the workplace you can see that it is your problem. As a co-worker, supervisor, manager or employer who are affected by workers who abuse alcohol.

The conspiracy of silence is unhelpful to you and to your affected colleague.

Alcohol and Drug Testing in the Workplace

Many workers with alcohol abuse problems will not readily admit that they have a problem. They can be confronted with the consequences of their problems but it is also important to know whether they are under the influence.

This is where random drug and alcohol testing comes in. It is, therefore, important to test workers. It is also important that this testing is done within the confines of the law and your company policy. You cannot just ask an employee to take a breathalyser test.

The third product range comprises a number of alcohol testers (breathalysers). CMM Technology™ supply a wide variety of alcohol testing products. These range from disposable saliva and breath alcohol testers, through to state-of-the-art digital handheld breathalysers.

Our expert team can provide you with the technology that best suits your needs. Whether your throughput is small or large, complex or simple, we have the right breathalyser for you.

For industrial applications with high throughput we recommend our wall mounted breathalysers. These can be optioned to suit most requirements.

Call us today on (+61) 1300 79 70 30 for an obligation free quote.


[1] (Conspiracy of Silence (Expression), 2010)

[2] (Alcohol Consumption in Australia: A Snapshot, 2004-05 , 2006)

[3] (Workplace Absenteeism and its connection with abuse of alcohol and other psychoactive substances, Undated)

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