Safety Alert – Can you have Xmas drinks?

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Alcohol in the Workplace

It may be quite common to enjoy a few alcoholic drinks in the evenings or on weekends, but the topic of drinking on the job should be approached very cautiously.  There may be a time or two, where employees sharing drinks together may be acceptable, but these will probably be limited to holiday functions and the occasional after work celebration.  Employers will need to go to great lengths to ensure that employees are not placed in harm’s way while driving home from a company function as the liability could potentially fall to the employer.  The National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD) estimates that from 2001-2002, 7.5% of work-related injuries were alcohol related. As far as normal work hours and duties are concerned, alcoholic beverages should not be considered appropriate at any time.  Many businesses rely on employees to operate equipment, drive company vehicles and perform many other tasks that if left to cloudy decision making could lead to serious workplace injuries and increased liability for employers.  Steps should be taken to consider the potential for these scenarios and how to best prepare for dealing with situations that could arise.

Do you have similar safety risks in your workplace?

  • Does your company host holiday functions or organize after hours gatherings where alcohol may be consumed?
  • Has there ever been a time when you suspected that an employee has had a few drinks before or during work?
  • Are employees drug or alcohol tested following a workplace accident?

What action can you take to prepare for alcohol consumption in the workplace.

  1. Establish a company position that clearly defines the scenarios when alcohol consumption is appropriate (i.e. holiday gatherings)?  Ensure that employees know that alcohol consumption in any other scenario may result in disciplinary action.
  2. Educate employees regarding the health hazards of alcohol consumption and how working under the influence can create a hazardous work environment.
  3. Health Hazards may include:
    1. Alcohol is a depressant, which can slow down the brain and nervous system.  This could delay response time and potentially lead an on-the-job injury.
    2. Aftereffects of drinking can include headaches, nausea, tiredness, shakiness and vomiting which can all impact work performance.
  1. Train managers to be aware of the signs or symptoms that someone may exhibit when under the influence of alcohol while at work.  Discuss how to approach these employees, if necessary, to provide a comfort level to address these types of scenarios.
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