Your employer has a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act to protect employees’ health, safety and welfare. Employees must also take reasonable care of themselves and anyone who could be affected by their work. By you understanding the signs of drug and alcohol misuse (or abuse), it will help you to be more aware of health and safety risks in your workplace.
What the issues are and what to look out for:
Misuse is not the same thing as dependence. Drug and alcohol misuse is the use of illegal drugs and misuse of alcohol, medicines and substances such as solvents. Consider these warning signs, which could indicate drug or alcohol misuse:
- unexplained or frequent absences
- a change in behaviour
- unexplained dips in productivity
- more accidents or near-misses
- performance or conduct issues
It is very important to recognise that these can also be signs of other things, like stress or illness.
Safety-Critical work activities
Do your colleagues undertake safety-critical
work activities? e.g:
- using machinery
- using electrical equipment or ladders
- driving or operating heavy equipment
Think about the kind of work you do and any safety-critical elements where drug or alcohol misuse could have a serious outcome.
Most Recent Statistics
- 358,000 admissions to hospital in 2018/19 where the
main reason was due to drinking alcohol. (6% higher
than 2017/18 and 19% higher than 2008/09)
- 5,698 alcohol-specific deaths in 2018
2% lower than 2017 and an increase of 7% on 2008
- In 2016 there were 2,593 registered deaths in
England and Wales related to drug misuse. This is
an increase of 5 per cent on 2015 and 58 per cent
higher than 2006
- Deaths related to drug misuse are at their highest
level since comparable records began in 1993
- In 2016/17, around 1 in 12 (8.5 per cent) adults
aged 16 to 59 in England and Wales had taken an
illicit drug in the last year.
- In 2016, 24 per cent of pupils reported they had ever
taken drugs. This compares to 15 per cent in 2014.
Drugs & Alcohol Misuse Policy
All organisations can benefit from an agreed policy on drug/alcohol misuse. Does your health and safety policy at work cover drugs and alcohol? The HSE offers guidance on Health, work and wellbeing. Some organisations may also opt to use Screening and testing for drugs and alcohol, do you know anyone that has to have these for work?
Download our latest issue here: EM June 22 – Drugs & Alcohol misuse at work