One In 5 Australian Workers Admits Being Drunk On The Job

Construction workers with beer

The next time you’re watching Parliament and wondering if the MPs are drunk, you have a 20% chance of being right according to a poll conducted by the Australian Drug Foundation (ADF).

A survey of 1000 Victorians found that nearly one in five employees admitted working while under the influence of alcohol, while 40% said they’d headed off to work still feeling the effects of alcohol.

One in five also said they had taken a day off work because of their hangover.

An Australian Institute of Criminology study last year put a $6 billion price tag on lost productivity to Australian business from alcohol and drugs. Alcohol contributes to 5 per cent of all Australian workplace deaths and 11 per cent of accidents.

And while some businesses have strong drug and alcohol testing regimes, Australian Drug Foundation head of workplace services Phillip Collins said the solution was not zero tolerance, but better education.

“Research is not showing that drug testing has a big or positive impact that. We need to be looking at whole spectrum of workplace culture and education, rather than expecting the big stick of taking a drug test to address the issue,” he said.

“You can have drug testing in place, but a business also has to ask where else can we put in protective measures.”

Collins pointed to a recent example of two mates, aged 28 and 29, at a Western Australia mine site, who are now both dead after an alcohol-fuelled fight, despite strict policies at the site.

One man died after he was allegedly punched by his friend and fell and hit his head. The other man is believed to have subsequently taken his own life.

The coroner is now investigating, but it’s believed the fight occurred during shift change – when day shift workers have a 24-hour break before starting night shift.

Workers often go hard on the grog believing they’ll have a enough time to dry out before returning to the job, but Collins says that his organisation has regularly seen the “next day effect” as people who’ve been on a bender make poor decisions at work the next day.

Many mistakenly think they can sleep off the booze, but alcohol stays in the system longer than most realise. It’s one reason why you find police conducting random breath tests at 9am.

“You may not feel like you’re over the limit, but you may be up to twice the limit, despite feeling refreshed. Seven schooners take 17 hours to get completely out of your system and 7 schooners is not a huge amount,” Collins said.

He argues don’t realise the hidden costs and risks.

“Alcohol affects a person’s concentration, coordination, decision making ability and slows reaction times. These can have implications for workplace safety and productivity.”

Education is the key, Collins says, especially to address myths around alcohol. But he’s not an advocate for abstinence.

A glass of wine with lunch, especially if entertaining is part of your job, is fine. “But don’t have 10 glasses,” he said.

“We’re not saying don’t drink, we’re saying be responsible and know the effects,” Collins said.

“Businesses need to put their energy around education and making sure culture is right and entire organisation is on board,” he said.

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