Problem drinking puts extra workload on co-workers

Recalibration, BreathalyserA co-worker who doesn’t pull their own weight is a burden in any workplace. New Australian research has shown that too many Australian workers are being forced to cover for a workmate with a drinking problem.The research adds weight to calls for increasedalcohol testing in workplaces.

Almost one in 10 Australian workers has been impacted by a co-worker with an alcohol problem, according to the latest research.

A 2010 survey of 1677 Australian workers published in the Medical Journal of Australia has reported that eight per cent of respondents had been “negatively impacted by a co-worker’s drinking” in the past year.

The research has uncovered some of the hidden effects of excess alcohol, testing Australian workers’ tolerance by increasing workloads and safety risks.

Researchers Dale and Livingston found 3.5 per cent had worked extra hours to compensate for a co-worker’s alcohol consumption.

More than four per cent reported that their ability to work had been compromised by a co-worker’s drinking in the past year.

The research supports a growing trend toward drug and alcohol testing in workplaces, both in Australia and overseas. While motorists have become familiar with breath alcohol tests, the introduction of drug and alcohol tests in work places has not been without resistance.

However, the weight of safe work requirements has made alcohol testing common practice, particularly in heavy industry worksites including transport, construction trades, mining and manufacturing.

National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA) researchers believe the correlation between alcohol and drug use and workplace productivity has traditionally been hard to quantify.

Previous research, mostly based in the US, had been inconsistent but two recent Australian studies (including the Dale and Livingston survey) have tackled the issue at the coal face.

By interviewing workers and not just top-end management the extent of the problem has become more evident.

A survey of nearly 5000 Australian railway employees in 2000 found that almost 20 per cent reported having helped out a workmate with a drinking problem. The most common issues identified were:

  • Absenteeism;
  • Health problems;
  • Poor quality work
  • Poor safety measures.

An alcohol and drug free workplace not only improves productivity, but also reduces the stress on co-workers – many of whom would like to see the introduction of an alcohol and drug test. Osborne Park-based CMM Technology is a leading supplier of drug testing products in Western Australia. For more information about screening tests contact 1300 797030 or visit


(from Workplace Drug Testing: Evidence and Issues download)

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