More research needed on drugs and alcohol at work

Tuesday, 19 September, 2006

A report on a study into drugs and alcohol in the workplace has concluded that there is a lack of evidence on the real effects of drugs and alcohol on workplace safety and that further research is needed.

The Impact of Alcohol & Other Drugs in the Workplace was a collaborative project between SafeWork SA and Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia that began in 2003.

The project was undertaken to assess the extent to which drugs and alcohol impact on safety, health and welfare in South Australian workplaces and to determine whether current tools and procedures are effective.

The limited statistical information available suggests that alcohol is a contributing factor in an estimated 4% of work-related fatalities and between 3-11% of workplace injuries. Other drugs are estimated to contribute to 2% of work-related fatalities.

Nine out of 10 workplaces surveyed had a drug policy in place as the most common strategy for combating the problem. Alcohol and drug testing was the next most common strategy, with half of the workplaces surveyed conducting regular testing.

The project outlined a number of action points to address the current situation:

  • Providing strategic leadership (this will be done through WorkSafe).
  • Identifying and disseminating best practice workplace responses.
  • Improving data collection practices that build on an assessment of current data sources.
  • Further research to investigate the effectiveness of workplace responses.
  • Developing workplace capacity to ensure high quality service provision and resource development.

Wendy Cramer, Editor

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