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Drugs and Alcohol: What’s your limit?

Up to 17 million working days are lost each year because of alcohol-related sickness, and the cost to employers of sick days due to drink is estimated at £1.7 billion. A whopping 40% of employers have reported that alcohol consumption is a significant cause of employee absence and lost productivity.

Drug and alcohol misuse may lead to misconduct, underperformance and/or absenteeism, and also brings with it the risk of serious health impacts for the individuals concerned. Perhaps the greatest risk is the likelihood of more accidents happening, particularly where the employee is responsible for the operation of machinery, vehicles or safety-critical systems. Reputation damage and the associated costs that come with drug and alcohol misuse also present a very real business risk.

Employers have a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees. It would be an offence to knowingly allow an employee to work whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs, particularly where it poses a threat to the health and safety of that employee or other people.

The HSE recommends a clear four-step process for handling alcohol and drug problems at work:

Step 1 Find out the scope of any problems: Audit your organisation to establish what, if any, issues arise from alcohol and drugs use in the workplace.

Step 2 Decide what to do: Discuss your findings with others in your organisation including safety representatives, occupational health professionals, supervisors and senior staff.

Step 3 Take action: There are a huge range of options available to you. But an essential step is producing a written alcohol and drugs policy to help ensure you deal with difficult situations in the future in a fair and consistent manner. It’s also important to promote self help and encourage employees to seek help and advice before a dangerous event occurs.

Step 4 - Check what you have done. Review your policy regularly to see if it is working and whether any changes need to be made.

The HSE have a comprehensive set of guidance available, but please do not hesitate to contact us here to discuss any concerns or issues you may have in your business.

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