Illicit drugs cost business $3.3 billion

Thursday, 26 April, 2007

SafeWork SA is urging workplaces to have clear guidelines and procedures in place for dealing with alcohol and other drugs, after a new report found illicit drugs are costing Australian businesses $3.3 billion a year.

The report, commissioned by the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation (ADLRF), considered the effects of absenteeism, crime and even road crashes to obtain its figure.

The ADLRF report says much of the cost is eventually passed on to consumers through higher prices or lower wages.

The Foundation is reported as saying that often companies do not realise the scale of the problem and should take it more seriously.

"The report highlights the need to eliminate uncertainty from any workplace policy on drugs and alcohol," SafeWork SA acting executive director, Peter Hampton said.

"There must be clear policies and procedures set up, including as to whether or not they include testing. This will ensure that all workers are clear about what expectations exist in relation to drugs and alcohol on the job, and what the consequences will be for any breaches," he said.

The use of alcohol and other drugs by a worker can cause impairment, which may have a serious impact on health, safety and welfare in the workplace.

In South Australia, all employers have a legal obligation to identify hazards, assess risks and implement appropriate control measures for those risks.

Where alcohol or other drugs present a risk to the health, safety or welfare of workers, employers must put in place appropriate measures to control those risks.

WorkSafe SA, together with Drug and Alcohol Services SA, has developed guidelines for South Australian employers on managing alcohol and other drugs in the workplace. The guidelines are available at the WorkSafe SA website.

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