Issues of Drinking Alcohol at Work

Alcohol is a huge part of many cultures, traditions, and events around the world. Alcohol use is also prevalent in intimate gatherings, individual consumption, or after work hours. Particularly, moderate intake helps many employees relax or relieve stress after work. Unfortunately, it becomes a workplace concern when impairment affects work performance or increases safety risks. For example, jobs involving heavy equipment operations rely on the workers’ alertness to perform the task effectively. When intoxicated, it decreases the perception and motor skills necessary to make sound reasoning and decisions. Furthermore, drinking alcohol at work in safety-critical environments leads to occupational hazards. 

Most workplaces prohibit drinking alcohol at work except during formal functions or special occasions. However, even a minimal amount can lead to accidents or serious injuries. It also lowers the work rate, increases absenteeism, and strains relationships. Without monitoring, prevalent alcohol use will affect the overall productivity and company integrity. Therefore, more employers implement a policy to manage safety risks associated with alcohol. For example, devices from Breathalysers Australia help workplaces monitor the employees’ sobriety. Professional breathalysers like BACtrack are accurate and efficient in determining a person’s intoxication level. They are portable devices that estimate the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) through the breath and deliver the results in 10 to 15 seconds. 

Alcohol at Work: Implementing a Workplace Policy

Alcohol or substance impairment is a leading factor affecting Australian businesses every year. Therefore, employers must ensure to place safety measures to minimise preventable hazards. Employers may implement alcohol testing through a comprehensive workplace policy. At the same time, workers have a shared responsibility to take appropriate care of their health and safety. Employees must ensure to safeguard the workplace and don’t affect their co-workers. Therefore, the alcohol policy aims to deter the use of alcohol at work or impairments. Additionally, it should suit the company’s specific needs. The workplace policy outlines the terms and conditions that employees can easily follow. It includes:

  • Alcoholic beverages are prohibited before going to work, during working hours, during break time, or at work events without explicit permission from the company. 
  • Going to work intoxicated or with alcohol content is not tolerated. Therefore, it is considered an example of bad workplace behaviour and a serious offence.
  • The policy states the methods of alcohol monitoring, such as breath testing or other laboratory analysis. It also includes the list of prohibited substances like alcohol or illegal drugs. Lastly, the policy covers what happens if an employee returns with positive test results.
  • The employer provides support and counselling to an employee suffering from an alcohol use disorder


Alcohol Testing at Work

The employer may facilitate alcohol testing to determine workers with impairment. When a person consumes alcohol, it passes quickly to the bloodstream and ends up in different body parts. Depending on the intake, alcohol remains in the system for definite periods. However, the body can only burn-off alcohol at a constant rate of 0.015% BAC or equivalent to one standard drink per hour. As a result, a person may work the next day intoxicated. Therefore, the employer may conduct an alcohol test to identify workers drinking alcohol at work or posing significant safety hazards. Several testing procedures can trace alcohol use within different detection periods. The standard method used is a breath test through a breathalyser device.

A breathalyser captures the exhaled air through the mouthpiece into the sensors. Once alcohol reaches the sensors, it undergoes an oxidisation process to measure the amount of alcohol. Most devices from Breathalysers Australia use fuel cell sensors to estimate the BAC level. Fuel cell breathalysers provide more accurate and consistent results than devices with semiconductor sensors. Furthermore, fuel cell sensors are sensitive to ethyl alcohol and do not react with other substances in the breath. In effect, they are unlikely to produce false positives, especially for people with diabetes or low-calorie diets. Moreover, breathalysers can detect alcohol for up to 12 to 24 hours. Therefore, a breathalyser efficiently determines employees who consume alcohol at work or have alcohol content. 

When to Conduct Alcohol Testing

Companies may facilitate alcohol testing through a workplace policy. The policy enables employers to test the workers per state or federal laws. In addition, employers must strictly follow the policy guidelines to avoid legal liabilities. Therefore, workplaces may conduct alcohol testing in particular circumstances. The most common reasons are pre-employment, post-incident, random, and for-cause testing. A pre-employment test help determines if a job applicant has risky alcohol behaviour that may compromise workplace safety. It prevents hiring the wrong person who tends to drink alcohol at work. On the other hand, workplaces conduct an alcohol or drug test to determine if substance impairment leads to the accident. Meanwhile, random alcohol testing is essential to monitor intoxication and helps deter alcohol use. Lastly, employers implement for-cause testing if an employee shows obvious symptoms of impairment. 


Alcohol at Work: What are the Signs?

Some individuals may manifest clear impairment through their appearance or actions. However, some people who are intoxicated have more subtle signs. Despite this, it still poses safety hazards at work. Therefore, training for managers or supervisors in identifying impaired staff is crucial. For example, if you suspect that an employee is drinking alcohol at work or has alcohol problems, these are the potential signs to look for:

Work signs: 

  • Unexplained increase in absences or tardiness  
  • Failing to focus on work tasks  
  • Having poor quality and quantity of work  
  • Missing task or project deadlines  
  • Unusual and inconsistent behaviour at work  
  • Sleeping during working hours  

Physical signs:  

  • Having alcohol odour in the breath
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor personal hygiene and neglecting appearance at work  
  • Red and puffy eyes  
  • Heavy sweating
  • Constantly chewing gum, taking breath mints, and using mouthwash  
  • Uncontrollable shaking, tremors 
  • Poor balance or coordination

It is crucial to note that not all people with alcohol problems may show these signs. Additionally, an employee who displays these symptoms may not explicitly have a substance use disorder. Therefore, employers must carefully approach employees to tackle drinking alcohol at work policies. 

Workplace Devices at Breathalysers Australia

Workplace safety relies on the accuracy and reliability of devices to maintain a hazard-free environment. The right equipment and trained staff to test alcohol at work are crucial in monitoring sobriety and preventing untoward incidents. In line with this, Breathalysers Australia offers a comprehensive line of alcohol testers for personal and professional uses. Breathalysers Australia Gen2 series, such as the BACtrack S80 Pro Gen2, Mobile Gen2, and the Alcovisor Mercury, are excellent workplace devices. The breathalysers utilise the largest fuel cell sensors to give the most on-point accuracy. Furthermore, the workplace breathalysers are FDA-approved and DOT-compliant, meeting all requirements of an effective breath screening device. It is the same technology that police use in roadside breath test procedures.