Understanding Alcohol in the Workplace
A Common Problem or Ghost Story?
Everyone recalls the training videos and/or employee handbook they got when starting a new job. There’s always a lengthy section about workplace behavior and rules and one of these rules is always the prohibition of consuming alcohol on the premises. It may seem like a no-brainer to not drink while at work, but these rules have to come from somewhere. Usually such rules are put in place because of an incident.
How often does this happen, though? Is drinking on company property a real concern or is it just a ghost story told by the HR department, made to sound worse than it is? According to a study done by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), one out of five workers and managers have reported someone’s drinking, be it on or off the job, putting their own productivity and safety at risk.
Furthermore, federal surveys taken in 2015 have shown that roughly 24 percent of people reported that they drank during the work week at least once during the past year. Industries that have the most workplace alcoholism include excavation, construction, repair, maintenance and installation, mining and drilling, and food service.
Dangers of Workplace Drinking
Everyone knows you shouldn’t drink on the job or show up to work drunk, but few people take the time to think about why. Beyond the simple “you shouldn’t,” there are very real problems that can arise from workplace alcoholism. The four most common are loss of productivity, absenteeism, injuries and accidents, and death.
There are other issues to consider as well. Drinking at or before work can lead to tardiness, sleeping on the job, poor morale amongst co-workers, and disciplinary measures being taken. That’s to say nothing of the safety risks involved.
Being under the influence of alcohol, or any substance, at the workplace drastically increases the risk of injury or death. Among emergency room patients admitted for workplace injuries, 16 percent failed to pass a breathalyzer test. In addition, in 11 percent of workplace fatalities, the victims were found to have been drinking.
Behind the Drinking
When a person’s performance at work begins to suffer because of alcohol, whether due to an inability to focus, or being hungover from the night before, it’s a warning sign of a major problem. In fact, when watching for signs of alcohol addiction adverse work performance is one of the biggest red flags. This indicates that alcohol has taken over much of the person’s life and is rearranging their priorities.
There are many factors that could lead a person to drink, such as finances, relationships, family, and a number of other sources of stress. The reality is that when a person becomes dependent on alcohol, it has turned into a genuine disease that they no longer have control over.
According to Jim Bradford from the Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, “it is an abnormal condition that is characterized by identifiable signs and symptoms. Features of the disease are that it is chronic, the course is progressive, and the outcome is potentially fatal.”
Some may feel that treating alcoholism as a disease is a cop-out or an attempt to excuse the actions of those who abuse alcohol. This is far from true, however, as one of the core tenets of rehabilitation is taking responsibility one’s own actions, whether under the influence or not.
Cathy Doran from YFA Connections has a brother who has type 1 diabetes and mentioned how he doesn’t handle his sugar well. He passes out in parking lots, collapses in the halls of the school where he teaches, and drives the wrong way on freeways, all without any clue of what he’s doing.
“He has diabetes. Does that excuse his dangerous and stupid behaviors? Absolutely not. People have a responsibility to do what is right, follow the laws, be good and kind people; whatever it is we expect of each other in this world” she says.
Diabetes is a very good parallel for substance abuse disorder. They are both serious medical conditions that can have life-threatening consequences, neither one has a cure, but both can be managed. Likewise, both can lead to unfortunate accidents, injuries, and lack of sound judgement when they are not properly managed.
Understanding alcoholism is paramount in coping with it, whether in yourself or in others. If you notice a problem, don’t wait for it to get worse. Substance abuse is a progressive disease, which means it will only get worse the longer it remains untreated. Don’t wait for the problem to get worse. Call today and get help.