It is no coincidence that research shows a link between drugs and alcohol use and stress. Alcohol and drugs are used as relaxants so it would make sense that workers with highly pressurised or stressful jobs would indulge in drinking and some even drug taking. However drinking on the job is completely different to having a drink after work to unwind. Workers who engage in drinking and drug taking while on duty, seriously endanger the safety of everyone on site and undermine a business’s operational ability.
Drinking and drug taking alters a worker’s mental and physical capabilities which means they are not able to perform at their peak. Workers who believe that they can have a drink or two and it won’t affect them are mistaken, especially in an industry as dangerous as construction. Activities such as welding, operating heavy machinery, working with power tools are all risky when undertaken by a sober individual, however when combined with drugs and alcohol are a deadly combination. Workers who are intoxicated do not operate on the same mental capacity as those who are sober and so jeopardise the health and safety of everyone on site.
Other than slowing the productivity of the site and endangering the lives of workers, drinking and drug taking also increases absenteeism and sick leave. Workers are also more likely to get injured and so increase their compensation claims and cost to the company.
Workers should also keep in mind that alcohol and drugs remain in the system even the next morning, so while you may not think you are still intoxicated, the chemicals could still be in your body the next day from a heavy night of binge drinking. This may affect the way you do your job and may even cause injury, especially if you are still hung-over.
The main effects on your ability to work are: decreased alertness,impaired judgement and lowered productivity. A recent national survey which was conducted in Melbourne showed that construction workers showed some of the highest rates of drinking and drug taking. The survey included approximately 500 labourers, managers and office staff, more than half of which showed a drinking and drug taking level that put their safety at risk.
Particularly concerning is the amount of construction workers who admitted to using ecstasy or amphetamine substances in the past year and the 16 per cent that had used marijuana, showing figures higher than the rest of the population. Sadly the majority of workers involved in the research did not have sufficient knowledge of how drugs and alcohol could affect their physical performance on the job. This suggests that employers need to do more to educate workers and create awareness of the issue. Employers and government should undertake to do more to remove the culture of drinking and drug taking in the construction industry.
This post by MICHELLE Henderson, AAP National Medical Writer, explains what the results mean for construction workers:
“Operating machinery and mobile equipment, the proximity to road traffic, using electrical equipment and operating at heights conspire to accentuate the potential adverse impact of drugs and alcohol in these workplaces,” Prof Biggs said.
“What we need is educational preventative programs, rather than simply dealing with alcohol and other drug use after the fact through testing and dealing with positive results,” he said.
Prof Biggs said a national education program would be developed to combat alcohol and drug use in the construction industry.
The 494 workers surveyed over the two-year project also included engineers and plant operators.
The Sustainable Built Environment National Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology conducted the study.