Preventative measures to curb the impact of alcohol use and effects in the workplace are essential for the ongoing safety and health of an organisation – from lower strata employees through to upper management. Recent research indicates one of the most effective ways to address and “prevent alcohol-related problems at work is with a workplace alcohol policy in consultation with everyone that will be affected by it.” In order to set out a relevant and applicable policy, it is important to identify the key factors that may contribute to alcohol use in the work environment. Some of these may include:
- Shift work and long hours
- Dirty, noisy work environment
- High risk of personal injury/illness
- Poor job design (lacking variety, or too demanding)
- Unrealistic deadlines
- Lack of decision-making input
- Culture tolerating or encouraging drinking during or outside of hours
- Peer pressure
Worksafe Victoria has stated harmful use of alcohol or other drugs can in fact be lessened if:
- The workplace is safe/healthy
- Work is well organized and adequately supervised
- Work is challenging and rewarding
- Proper support is offered to help with work problems/pressures
- There is restricted access to alcohol at work.
In addition, a comprehensive testing program can also be developed as part of a preventative strategy, using either on-site random testing of oral saliva or a urinalysis screening process as well as breathalyser testing. In Victoria, the results of the Rural Random Breath Test Program (1993-94) showed a significant correlation between the increase of RBT tests and a massive reduction in accident statistics.  These findings strongly suggest the value of random breath testing as a preventative measure that can actually alter and shape attitude away from an excessive alcohol consumption model to a more moderate and safe one. It may also act as a complete deterrent in some cases. The application of these research outcomes in the form of a testing component of a workplace drug and alcohol policy, has evolved over the past decade in Australia, particularly in heavy industry, road and marine transport and mining.
While privacy invasion is often cited as the main objection to alcohol and drug testing in the work environment, the reality is employers have a clear duty of care to “provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health….Also, without in any way limiting the generality of this duty, employers have duties with respect to plant, substances and systems of work; providing facilities for and information, instruction training and supervision to their employees. The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 goes on to state that “employees are to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of others (for example, ensuring they are not, by use of alcohol, affected in a way that may put themselves or others at risk): and to co-operate with employers in their efforts to comply with OHS requirements.”
An onsite testing program that utilizes the latest advancements in screening technologies is a valuable component of a drug and alcohol workplace policy that sees prevention of AOD problems as an important part of OHS management and profit maintenance and increase. If you require clear and comprehensive advice on testing options and testing equipment, please do not hesitate to contact CMM Technology on 618 9204 2500.
 Alcohol and Work Fact Sheet DrugInfo Clearinghouse (ADF). http://alcoholandwork.adf.org.au/browse.asp?ContainerID=preventing_work_problems
 Guideline for Developing A Workplace Alcohol Policy. Worksafe Victoria 2004.
 Randall, A. Reduction in Drink Driving in Victoria http://casr.adelaide.edu.au/T95/paper/s14p5.html
 Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.
 Ibid. section 25