Do You Know the Risk Factors for Drug and Alcohol Abuse at Work?


The use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace has long been a concern for employers nationwide. Aside from poor work performance and unreliability, workers under the influence of drugs and alcohol can become reckless or complacent, jeopardizing their safety and the safety of their co-workers.

According to the National Workplace Drug Free Alliance, drug use in the workplace costs this country billions of dollars every year in lost productivity. Both alcohol and drug abuse have been linked to absenteeism, accidents and injuries at work, not to mention the established link between substance abuse and both workplace harassment and violence.

Here are some key things employers should look for when trying to identify these types of workplace issues.

  • Low productivity
  • Poor work quality
  • Low morale
  • High absenteeism rate
  • Increased accident/near miss
  • Theft of equipment/materials or others personal belongings
  • Slowed reaction time/delayed decision making skills
  • Poor coordination
  • Easily fatigued/sleeping on the job
  • Poor memory
  • Slow learner/easily loses concentration
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Erratic behavior
  • Trouble with law enforcement
  • Aggressive towards others

While it may be challenging to protect your organization from the effects associated with drug and alcohol use and abuse, it is a very important part of any organization’s safety program. Establishing a comprehensive drug and alcohol program can be a powerful tool in helping to prevent these workplace issues.

For employees, an effective program provides company-specific information and details of the company’s policy. Employees should be trained on the process for reporting suspected drug and alcohol abuse, including possession, manufacturing, or sale on company premises. All employees should be required to participate in this type of training upon hire and at least annually thereafter.

Janet Byers, Regional Risk Control Manager

Janet Byers is a workplace wellness expert. She leads PMA’s corporate-wide Wellness Group, which provides clients with guidance on developing and implementing programs to integrate safety and wellness into all organizational levels.