When it comes to alcohol in the workplace, most people think of their coworkers having too much to drink at the holiday office party. The truth is that drinking at work is a much larger problem, and has much more serious consequences than hangovers.
How big of an issue is alcohol in the workplace?
Alcoholism is incredibly common in the United States. Most alcoholics are active in the workforce, and many high functioning alcoholics are able to get through the workday with no obvious problems. However, alcohol severely inhibits coordination and decision-making skills, and can affect employees at all levels and across all industries.
How can you find out if someone has been drinking?
Beyond smelling alcohol on their breath, a quick breathalyzer test will determine how much alcohol is in their blood. From there, a simple calculation can determine how much someone has had to drink, and how long ago they consumed their last alcoholic beverage. People metabolize alcohol at a steady rate (0.018mg% per hour for women and 0.015mg% for men), so you can easily tell if someone was impaired at the time of the test and if they were drunk when they started working.
What are the risks of drinking at work?
Alcohol affects the body’s fine motor coordination and the brain’s decision making abilities. People who have dangerous jobs have a higher risk of injury with alcohol use, especially those who drive or work with dangerous equipment. Decision makers in upper management may not be as prone to physical accidents, but the impairment of their mental faculties can cause them to make bad decisions that affect their organizations.
Where is alcoholism most common?
There is a strong correlation between high stress jobs and alcoholism. Air traffic controllers have a higher rate of alcoholism and substance abuse. This is also true of pilots, lawyers, and doctors. The key factors for jobs with high alcoholism are stress, access to liquor, and money to spend on it. Larger companies typically have bigger human resources departments that are able to deal with alcoholism in the workplace . Smaller companies with fewer resources, however, tend to struggle with addressing alcohol abuse at work.
What preventative measures can companies take?
It’s important to develop a company alcohol policy, and to train supervisors to identify people under the influence of both drugs and alcohol. At U.S. HealthWorks Medical Group, we are proud to offer training sessions to help our clients identify the symptoms of abuse. We are also happy to provide resources for companies to set up programs to test employees for alcohol and substance abuse, and can make recommendations for treatment options. Some companies even offer rewards to employees for staying clean.
How can you test for alcohol?
Breath alcohol tests (through breathalyzers) are the fastest, easiest, and most accurate way to measure alcohol content in someone’s blood. Urine tests, while they exist, are outdated and unreliable. Our locations can do a blood draw to measure alcohol content, but there is virtually no difference in accuracy between a blood draw and a breath test.
What should you do if you suspect someone is drunk at work?
If someone has been drinking, they should be removed from the workplace as quickly as possible. Immediately have the suspected person take a breath alcohol test via a breathalyzer. Substance abuse professionals can do this test at any of our clinics quickly, easily, and painlessly. Often times this will be at the employee’s expense, but some organizations may foot the bill for diagnostics and treatment for key employees.
What laws are in place to combat alcohol abuse at work?
Federal laws set the levels at which someone is considered impaired while at work. On the job impairment is considered half of the federal level. Normally a personal with 0.08 BAC is considered intoxicated; however, at work that number is 0.04 BAC, at which point you cannot legally continue working. Depending on the industry, stricter limits may be in place. In aviation, for example, a breath alcohol level of 0.01 is considered too high to fly. Employers should be sure to understand all applicable local, state, and federal laws.
What tools does U.S. HealthWorks Medical Group provide?
The biggest tools you’ll need are supervisor training to spot substance abuse and the ability to test alcohol levels. We are proud to offer both services at all of our locations. Further, we can make other recommendations to improve safety in all types of work environments. Contact us to learn how we can help make your workplace safer for everyone. Or, find a U.S. Healthworks center near you.