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The festive season is just around the corner, and with it comes the fun of year-end parties and celebrations. While this time can be a much-needed break for many, the ‘spirit’ of the season often lures people into drinking more regularly and even in excess.
Past experience shows that many businesses see an increase in alcohol consumption during this period, with many employees testing positive when they ‘clock in’ for the day. In addition to employees arriving at work that are still under the influence from heavy drinking the night before, the festive season also sees an increase in the consumption of alcohol during working hours. This not only negatively impacts productivity and places the company at risk, but also endangers employees, particularly in industries where heavy equipment is in use or conditions are hazardous. Minimising this risk by reducing incidents of alcohol consumption in the workplace is imperative to ensure the safety and productivity of staff during the festive season and throughout the rest of the year.

Festive season celebrations are often the cause of excessive drinking, and employees may show up for work still feeling the effects of the night before. They may also decide to have private ‘celebrations’ by bringing alcohol into the workplace and consuming it during working hours. Intoxicated employees are not only less productive, they also introduce risk to the workplace in several ways, as the effects of alcohol impair judgement and concentration. While this is highly dangerous in industries like mining, manufacturing and transportation, it actually affects any business to some degree.  

Alcohol consumption negatively impacts vision, and in fact, affects both the lateral field of vision and depth perception. A recent study indicated that intoxicated persons showed up to 44% deterioration after consumption and five hours later, 16% deterioration was still evident. Alcohol consumption also impairs response reflexes, induces fatigue and even raises blood pressure. The result? A drop in productivity and an increase in work related accidents, which has the potential to not only result in injury but even death.

Alcohol consumption is a problem all year round, however, the risk is heightened by a culture of drinking which is much more evident over the festive season. Typically, the culture of excessive drinking and drinking ‘on the job’ can influence other employees to follow suit. This will of course make the problem worse and increase the number of people that arrive for work under the influence. It is important to prevent these people from entering the workplace and influencing those around them. It is also imperative to stop employees from bringing alcohol onto the premises – often staff will smuggle alcohol in pre-mixed soft drinks or in small bottles that can be concealed in a bag or on their person. This alcohol is then consumed during business hours, further increasing risk and decreasing productivity.

Companies need to look proactively towards this seasonal increase in drinking by planning ahead, implementing stringent processes and tightening control measures to detect alcohol consumption. If random testing policies are currently in place, this should change to compulsory testing on entering the premises. Mandatory testing for all employees should also be implemented, or at the very least a greater number of tests per day. Over the festive season, people become more willing to risk a random test, and more people are under the influence of alcohol, so such policies will often result in many intoxicated persons slipping under the radar. In order to reduce drinking on site, it is also recommended to implement random testing as employees leave the premises. This will help to control the number of people who consume alcohol during working hours.

When it comes to testing, the right equipment can be exceptionally helpful. Slow and cumbersome breathalysers will make compulsory testing all but impossible as it would take far too long and become inefficient. Rapid testing solutions can produce results quickly, making it more feasible to handle high volumes of testing before work as well as after. In addition, some rapid test solutions can also be used to detect the presence of alcohol in liquids, simply by holding the testing device over a bottle. This helps to prevent alcohol from being smuggled onto the premises concealed in soft drink bottles.

The festive season should be a time for people to celebrate and unwind, but the culture of drinking should not be brought into the workplace where it can have serious negative consequences. Over this period of heightened alcohol consumption, companies need to be more vigilant and aware. Control measures should be made more stringent and testing should become a compulsory practice using equipment that can handle high volumes of tests quickly and efficiently. This not only reduces risk for the business, but also for all employees in the workplace.

Rhys Evans is the Director of ALCO-Safe.
Wellness / Worklife Balance

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