Drugs at work are common. In 2007, nearly one in five Australians (17.7%) admitted taking illegal drugs. A third of Australian workers regularly drink at risk levels and one in every 16 works under the influence of alcohol.
Chris Parker, former drug user and now health and wellbeing advisor, will address on impact of alcohol and drug use at Queensland Safety Conference organised by Australian Exhibitions & Conferences . According to Parker, the days after intoxication are perhaps more hazardous. When a person is intoxicated, there are many signs for managers to detect that something is wrong and tests can be done. During the coming down period when the drug may be undetectable, one could be dealing with shakes, fatigue, flashbacks, hallucinations and possibly depression and psychosis.
Research has put the annual cost to Australian business of absenteeism resulting from hangovers or alcohol and drug related injuries. Parker will explain at the Queensland Safety Conference that the prevalence of drug and alcohol use in the workplace makes the cost of employee assistance programmes (EAP) an investment for larger employers.
Parker observes that the rule of thumb is that the cost of replacing an employee can be up to three times their annual salary. In addition there is the destruction these workers can create before they leave.
There is a school of thought that a person needs to seek help on their own account before counselling can be effective. If barriers are removed, it can enable people to engage in treatment seeking behaviour. Employers need to provide multiple routes to multiple types of assistance for drug-affected employees.
Parker notes that engaging a support worker who is not involved in line management but can advise managers and encourage employees to ask for help and then provide practical support through the process will make the EAP effective. A lack of information often meant employers and managers were unprepared for the demands of the recovery process. Apart from understanding, the employee needs time to recover, which generally takes months.