The influence of drugs and alcohol pose huge safety risks for the construction industry; a lapse in attention or focus could cause serious consequences, particularly in a working environment where heavy machinery and vehicles are used. For many people, consuming alcohol outside working hours is a typical part of a normal lifestyle and usually does not create any serious problems. Enjoying a few drinks within the legal limit in leisure time should not be condemned, but the after effects must be kept in mind when regarding an individual’s physical and mental capabilities.
It is worth recognising that it is not just recreational drugs that pose a serious risk. Prescribed drugs may also influence an individual in various ways which can have serious consequences in the workplace. Fundamentally, any form of drug that you may not routinely take holds the possibility of unexpected side effects.
The issue of drugs and alcohol does not just pose a health and safety hazard; the possession, production and supply of illegal drugs are criminal offences and have no place in the working environment. Whilst employers and colleagues should be aware of the signs of being under the influence, they should also be vigilant of any illegal activity taking place on premises.
Alongside the risks to health and safety and potential criminal activity, the impact of drugs and alcohol should be clearly identified and addressed.
In order to gain a more up to date and direct representation of how the industry feels about the issue, the Scheme gathered information through an industry survey. Over 1,200 participants responded, proving the subject was clearly an important issue. The following results were identified:
59% agreed there is an issue in the industry related to drugs and alcohol
39% admitted the issue of drugs or alcohol could be better tackled in their workplace
65% admitted they have never been tested for drugs and alcohol
35% have noticed their colleagues under the influence of drugs and alcohol
25% agreed drugs or alcohol affected them at work through tiredness
23% agreed it affected them through decreased attention during work
19% agreed the affects made them less productive at work
Facts and figures
While difficult to determine exactly what extent the industry is affected by drugs and alcohol the following facts have been identified:
- 20-30% of workplace accidents can be associated with alcohol in safety-critical industries such as construction (NHS, 2006)
- 27% of employers say drug misuse is a problem at work while 60% have experienced problems due to staff drinking alcohol (Alcohol Concern, 2010)
- 33% of employees admit to being at work with a hangover from the night before, which they accept impacts directly on their own productivity and safety (Institute of Alcohol Studies, 2015)
- 3-5% of all absences each year are due to alcohol (Trade Union Congress, 2010)
- 17 million working days a year are lost in England due to alcohol-related sickness, with more than a third of adults admitting to having used illegal drugs (Health and Safety at work, 2007)
- £12.2 billion is spent each year on alcohol-sickness absence costs in the UK (Faculty of Public Health, 2006)