The exact symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse will vary, but some general symptoms might be observed, such as:
- Late attendance.
- Increased absenteeism.
- Reduction in quality of work.
- Reduction in work rate.
- Irritability and mood swings.
- Deterioration in working relationships.
These will all be associated with cost to the employer, as well as increased risk.
Drugs and alcohol cause sensory impairment, skewed perception, impaired motor control and, in many instances, fatigue and drowsiness. There are obvious safety risks associated with drugs and alcohol, e.g. driving a vehicle or operating machinery under the influence increases the risk to the worker and to others. There are also health risks for the worker, usually associated with long-term abuse (e.g. cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol abuse).
The employer should collect information about the state of the problem in the workplace. Company history may show a clear pattern of drug or alcohol misuse. Of course, in some locations local culture will dictate that drugs and alcohol are severely restricted in use.
- The employer should establish a clear drugs and alcohol policy. This policy might contain the following:
- Rules restricting access to alcohol in the workplace or during working hours.
- Statutory legal requirements prohibiting workers from being under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
- Non-statutory requirements (set by the employer) prohibiting workers from being under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
- Arrangements for any random drug and alcohol testing that workers will be subject to.
- Arrangements for workers to have access to rehabilitation and treatment programmes if they admit to having a problem.
- Disciplinary procedures for workers who refuse assistance, refuse to be tested, or who fail a test.
- Provision of information, instruction and training for workers, supervisors and managers.
Drug and alcohol awareness campaigns should also be considered.
Any drug and alcohol testing policy must be justified and clearly explained to workers. There are legal and ethical issues associated with testing regimes that must be carefully considered.