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Drugs and Alcohol: Quick Facts

Published by Safety Net Team

February 23, 2022

Alcohol and drug misuse has an impact on everyone at work. Not only does it damage the misuser’s health and potentially increase the risk to all employees’ health and safety, it can also cost employers through absenteeism and reduced productivity.

There are well-documented links of the increased risks associated with alcohol and drug use, prescribed or not. The risks include impairment in cognition, perception and motor skills, at both acute and chronic levels, as well as a number of specific health risks.

Employers should adopt a substance misuse policy, in consultation with their employees, and employment contracts should be clear about this. This policy should aim to support affected employees, with disciplinary measures a last resort.

  • There is specific legislation relating to the use of alcohol and drugs at work. Employers also have an implied duty under the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 to control the use of drugs and alcohol at work.
  • When determining what action to take in respect of drugs and alcohol, it is useful for an employer to understand the difference between dependency and misuse.
  • There are many causes of substance abuse.
  • To keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level, both men and women are advised not a drink regularly more than 14 units per week.
  • The possession of some drugs is illegal, exposing the misusers to the risk of criminal charges as well as causing harmful effects to their health.
  • When formulating a policy and developing procedures in relation to the misuse of drugs and alcohol the employer will need to consider a number of factors.
  • Some employers adopt alcohol and drug screening as part of their policy.

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