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Workplace Responses

Implementing a range of responses, tailored to the specific conditions, needs and resources of your workplace are more likely to have an impact and support the development of a safe workplace culture around alcohol.

Fitness for Work Alcohol Policy

Developing a fitness for work alcohol policy is part of a "whole of workplace" health and safety approach to the prevention and management of alcohol-related harm in or related to the workplace.

Whether your workplace has identified a potential alcohol-related risk, has existing procedures and practices but no formalised policy or has an existing policy that requires improving or updating, considerations at each phase of the policy cycle should be addressed to effectively meet your workplace needs.

For further information see the Fitness for Work Alcohol Policy Section.

Workplace Health Promotion

Workplace health promotion aims to improve and promote the health and well-being of employers and employees through awareness raising and education aimed at behavioural change, risk or harm prevention and changes to the workplace environment1.

Investing in workplace health promotion can have a positive impact on your workplace. Incorporating the prevention and management of alcohol-related harm within broader workplace health and well-being programs and supporting healthy lifestyle choices can motivate behavioural change in reducing levels of risky alcohol consumption12.

Workplace health promotion should be tailored to the unique needs of the workplace and may include:

  • awareness raising through information dissemination at meetings, electronic networks and other media and by displaying posters, leaflets and booklets in main thoroughfares and communal areas that encourage employees to avoid harmful drinking;
  • workplace education and training;
  • creating a supportive workplace environment e.g. workplace events and social functions that are not organised at times or places when alcohol is expected or provided by employers. Non-alcoholic drinks may be provided as an alternative;
  • events and initiatives such as free workplace health checks and workplace healthy lifestyle challenges or competitions, including healthy incentives and;
  • provision of/or to access support services.
 
Further Information

Workplace Education and Training

Providing education and training is central to a ‘whole-of workplace’ health and safety approach to the prevention and management of alcohol-related harm.

Education and training sessions and programs can be an effective strategy for your workplace. When incorporated into regular and ongoing workplace initiatives, targeted education and training:

  • fosters a positive workplace culture and provides support for healthy choices and behaviour;
  • provides information and raises the awareness about alcohol-related harm and risks; workplace factors contributing to increased risk of harm and access to support, counselling and treatment services;
  • challenges perceptions of risk, existing attitudes and behaviours around alcohol use;
  • develops capacity of the workplace to identify and respond to alcohol-related harm;
  • enhances management capability to address 'fitness for work' issues; and
  • enhances the success of workplace responses to managing alcohol-related harm and issues.

To be effective, education and training programs need to be targeted at your individual workplace needs, adaptable to changing workplace circumstances and tailored for all employees.

 
Further Information

Access to Support, Counselling and Treatment Services

Accessing support, counselling and treatment services is an important component of a workplace response to managing alcohol-related harm and issues3.

This may be encouraged as part of a workplace ‘fitness for work’ approach or procedure or a strategy within a workplace alcohol policy for providing assistance to employees with concerns regarding their own or someone else’s alcohol use.

Raising awareness of support services and how to access them is central to a ‘whole of workplace’ approach to managing alcohol-related harm and issues in/or related to the workplace. Support services are provided through:

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) which provide assessment and referral to comprehensive health and psychological services;
  • The Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) which is a free, confidential counselling and information service;
  • Community Alcohol and Drug Services (CADS) across metropolitan and non-metropolitan Western Australia providing counselling, information and referral to other support services, and ongoing case management;
  • general counselling services; and
  • private providers.

For a comprehensive listing of the alcohol and other drug services across Western Australia visit the Drug and Alcohol Office website or use this alternative resource to locate a relative support service near you.

Workplace Alcohol Testing

Testing should be considered as part of a broader ‘whole-of-workplace’ approach in preventing and managing alcohol-related harm in and/or related to the workplace1.

Some workplaces have adopted workplace alcohol testing as a strategy to identify alcohol-affected employees and address ‘fitness for work’ issues including safety and productivity.

Workplace testing is a complex issue and as a stand-alone strategy will probably not be sufficient to effectively cultivate cultural change in/or related to the workplace1.

Workplace testing focuses on individual employees rather than addressing the workplace culture around alcohol and unexpected and negative impacts on morale and productivity may result4.

Workplace testing for alcohol, through breath analysis, measures the level of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) which is related to intoxication and likely impairment 34. However, alcohol testing cannot measure the impairment that may arise from “hangover effects” (at zero BAC), which may also decrease work performance and/or increase time off work 4.

For testing to be accurate and correct, effectively maintained equipment needs to be used; poor equipment may lead to inaccurate tests results4.

“There are no provisions in the OSH Act that requires alcohol and other drug testing, employers therefore have a choice whether to test, if risk assessments show particular risks in this regard”5.

When considering whether testing is a feasible workplace strategy, the rationale should form part of a broader ‘whole-of-workplace’ approach and be guided by the level of alcohol and related risk in the workplace15.

The suitability of testing as a “fitness for work” measure should be assessed in relation to the type of industry, the workplace environment, safety including the nature of the job and tasks undertaken. The workplace profile including, employee consumption patterns, the relevance of these patterns to workplace safety and assessing the extent and nature of alcohol-related risk to workplace safety also needs to be considered4.

Workplace testing for alcohol may not achieve desired behavioural change.

Key considerations for implementing workplace testing include45:

  • rationale for testing e.g. level of alcohol-related risk and rates of use within the organisation or industry; the actual effects of alcohol use on workplace performance;
  • type of testing program required e.g. pre-employment screening, random testing, and testing ‘for cause’ following an accident or incident.
  • legal and ethical rights of both the employee and the employer including confidentiality and privacy issues;
  • collection method and procedures according to the type of testing program selected; when considering the introduction of alcohol testing, employers should ensure they adopt the least invasive means of testing e.g. breathalysers; written procedures for identifying, responding to and managing a positive test result;
  • provision of training for relevant ‘fitness for work’ issues related to alcohol use, effective styles of approaching employees, collection methods and procedures and managing responses;
  • consultation, communication and awareness raising with employees regarding the rationale for testing, testing programs being used, methods and procedures; and
  • resources required to run a testing type program i.e. cost per test, training for sample collection (as per AUS/NZ standards) and calibration of devices.
 
Further Information
 
References

1 Pidd,K. and Roche, A. (2013). Policy Talk. Workplace alcohol and other drug programs: What is good practice? Australian Drug Foundation.

2 Healthier Workplaces WA. Plan Do Review, Three Simple Steps to a Healthier Workplace.

3 Allsop,S., Phillips, M. and Calogero, C. (2001). Drugs and work: responding to alcohol and other drug problems in Australian workplaces. Melbourne. Australia.

4 Pidd, K. and Roche, A.M. (2011). Workplace drug testing: Evidence and issues. National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), Flinders University, Adelaide.

5 Commission for Occupational Health and Safety. (2008). Guidance Note Alcohol and Other drugs at the Workplace. MIAC.6. National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA). (2010). Workplace Drug & Alcohol Use Information & Data Series, Information Data Sheet 4. Drug Testing as a response to Alcohol and Other Drug Issues in the Workplace. Flinders University.