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Risk Management Approach to Alcohol in the Workplace

Employers have general 'duty of care' obligations to ensure, as far as practicable, employees, clients, customers or visitors that may enter or participate in the workplace, are not exposed to alcohol or other drug-related hazards and risks and where they exist, addressing them through risk management processes 1.

As with any other workplace safety and health issue, preventing and managing alcohol-related harm and issues in the workplace requires a risk management approach for responding to:

  • the workplace culture and practices that may encourage alcohol use at work;
  • workplace factors that can influence employee alcohol use and patterns of alcohol consumption e.g. physical and environmental factors, characteristics of the job;
  • workplace hazards or hazard factors that may increase the risk of injury should an employee be affected by alcohol e.g. tasks where concentration or motor coordination is relied on to carry out a job including driving in the course of work; operating equipment and machinery; the use of hazardous materials and performing duties as part of a team1;
  • workplace indicators e.g. ‘near miss’ incidents, frequent absences and regular alcohol use or dependence that may adversely affect fitness for work and work performance; and
  • concerns raised by workers, health and safety representatives or others at the workplace.

As an employer there are a few things you may need to consider as part of your risk management approach:2

  • What is your workplace culture around alcohol?
  • What are the risk factors associated with your workforce?
  • What are the workplace factors that can influence employee alcohol use and patterns of alcohol consumption and contribute to alcohol-related risks and harms?
  • Is alcohol available in or related to the workplace? How and when is it available? e.g. as part of catering services on work sites, over lunch, social events and at work-related functions.
  • What are the hazards associated with alcohol-related harm and the nature of the work undertaken in the workplace?
  • What are you doing to ensure a safe workplace? Are appropriate responses being implemented to address workplace factors and risks?
  • Is this consistent with relevant laws and occupational safety and health legislation specific to your industry?
  • What are the benefits of responding to alcohol-related harm in your workplace?

As with any risk management approach, the suitability of your responses will depend on your workplace needs and available resources. Implementing a range of complementary strategies is more likely to foster a safe workplace culture around alcohol. These responses need to be identified, implemented, reviewed and evaluated to ensure they are working as intended and be inclusive of all members of the workforce, including employees at all level.

 
Further Information
 
References

1 Commission for Occupational Health and Safety. (2008). Guidance Note Alcohol and Other drugs at the Workplace. MIAC.

2 Allsop, S. (2013) Workplace Training Module. National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth.