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Alcohol

The issue

Alcohol is the most widely used mood changing drug in Australia and can result in a range of physical, emotional and social harms. Alcohol is toxic to the body and there are many short term and long term effects that can impact heavily on your health.  

Short term:

  • Reduced concentration and alertness
  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed reaction time and reduced coordination and motor control
  • Confusion
  • Increased risk taking behaviour and poor judgement
  • Increased risk of injury, violence, falls and accidental death

 Long term:

  • Stress
  • Sleeplessness
  • Liver inflammation and damage
  • Sexual problems
  • Weight gain and obesity
  • High blood pressure and increased risk of stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Increased risk of developing many cancers
  • Brain damage

There are minimum requirements under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Please see WorkSafe WA's Guidance note on alcohol and other drugs at the workplace for more information. 

Reducing alcohol-related harm has considerable economic benefits to workplaces. Australian research estimates some of the economic costs of alcohol use and related harm to Australian workplaces:

  • Lost productivity in the workplace costs $3.5 billion annually
  • Alcohol-related absenteeism costs between $437 million and $1.2 billion annually – a considerable portion of these costs are attributable to low-risk drinkers and people who ‘infrequently drink heavily’ and are not restricted to the small number of chronic drinkers
  • Employee illnesses attributed to alcohol and other drug use costs $2 billion annually
  • Additional hours worked as a consequence of having a heavy drinking colleague costs $453 million annually 

What can the workplace do?

With one in five Australian adults drinking at levels that are dangerous to their health, it is important for workplaces to actively manage alcohol in the workplace. It is best practice to be an alcohol-free workplace, however this may not be possible for all workplaces. In all instances, clear guidelines should be developed to ensure staff understand your organisation's stance on alcohol. Workplaces can play a vital role in supporting staff with their alcohol issues through providing education and counselling services such as an Employee Assistance Program.

Even though alcohol may not be available in the workplace, it may be present at work-related functions or social events. At these events, the employer still has a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their workers. For further information, check out the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol.

Take a look at our latest clip for tips to cut back on alcohol in the workplace:

Toolbox video #5: Cutting back on the booze.

To target alcohol in your workplace:

  • Develop a tailored workplace policy in consultation with staff 
  • Provide staff with free, independent and confidential counselling through an Employee Assistance Program, where necessary
  • Provide education and information on the responsible use of alcohol, such as those produced by Alcohol, Think Again 

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Healthier Workplace WA
c/o The Heart Foundation
334 Rokeby Road
Subiaco WA 6008
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