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Drug and alcohol misuse at work

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

Drug and alcohol misuse at work is a major problem for many employers. 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.

Often there are warning signs that can identify a problem. Examples include unexplained and frequent absence, behavioural changes, dips in productivity, increased accidents, poor conduct, stress or ill health.

Issues are particularly important where the employee operates machinery, drives, or carries out other safety critical work.

Employers can benefit from an agreed policy on drug/alcohol misuse, which could be as part of your overall health and safety policy. ACAS and CIPD have useful guides on this.

Some employers do drug and alcohol screening, particularly for safety critical activities. But remember employees must consent to screening. Use a reputable screening company, and remember that employees can’t be made to take a test but, if they refuse when an employer has good grounds for testing, they may face disciplinary action.

Always try and support employees with problems. Provide training, such as toolbox talks or e-learning. There are many organisations that can help.

Drug and alcohol use is an issue all year round, but is covered here, as part of our Four Seasons of Health and Safety campaign to ensure employers consider its implications.

Enjoy your nights out safely. Stay out of trouble. Follow our advice here.

KSH Safety Services have a new e-learning course, Drug and Alcohol Awareness. Approved by CPD, this course is intended to provide you with the information you needed to understand and spot the signs of drug and alcohol misuse. It covers the legal and social implications for the individual and for your company if you find out an employee is misusing drugs. This course discusses the law, different types of drugs, and policies that can be put in place to protect yourself, your business and your employees. Click here for more details


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