Topics explained – Alcohol & other drugs

Use of alcohol and other drugs before or while at work can have a significant negative impact on individuals and the people around them.

The effects of both alcohol and illicit drug use during and outside of work hours can have a negative impact on workplaces such as:

  • increased health and safety risks
  • poor relationships
  • poor business reputation
  • lost productivity.

Risks to safety

Workers under the influence present an injury hazard to themselves and also place their workmates in danger or in the difficult position of being expected to cover for unsafe work practices.

Co-ordination, motor control, alertness and ability to exercise judgement can become affected by alcohol and drug use. These safety risks are greater where people operate machinery, drive vehicles or plant, or rely on concentration to do their work and can result in:

  • workplace accidents, injuries or damage to equipment
  • increased absenteeism and reduced productivity
  • poor teamwork or workplace relationships
  • disciplinary or conduct problems.

Employer responsibilities

You must:

  • manage the hazards associated with drugs and alcohol in the workplace
  • identify if there is drug and alcohol use at your workplace or if workers are coming to work under the influence.

Workers responsibilities

You must:

  • not use any drugs or alcohol while you are at work
    • exceptions may be for prescription medication for legitimate medical reasons
    • ask your doctor about their affect on your ability to work safely
    • if it’s likely they’ll affect your ability to do your work safely, tell your manager/employer; they may give you other duties while you’re taking the medication
  • ensure that any drug or alcohol use outside of work hours does not affect your safety or the safety of others
  • not come to work if you’re hungover or still on a high
  • follow your workplace’s drug and alcohol policy
  • talk to your manager or health and safety representative if you think one of your co-workers is impaired at work.

Having a responsible attitude to the consumption of alcohol or drug use is an important part of everyone’s overall health and wellbeing. If you reduce or cut out alcohol you will feel healthier, sleep better, save money and feel more energetic.

Safety solutions at work

Workplaces can be a good setting for promoting healthy attitudes towards responsible alcohol consumption and drug use hazards, especially through workplace education and awareness. By supporting your workers to make better decisions about these issues, you can benefit from a healthier and happier workforce and a safer workplace for everyone.

If an alcohol or drug-related hazard is identified in your workplace, you need to eliminate or reduce any related harm, as far as is practicable.

The most effective work health and wellbeing programs follow the same steps as successful safety programs, so your efforts to manage alcohol and drugs are best done as part of an integrated approach. Use the following resources to help get your workplace health and wellbeing programs off the ground.

WorkLife – Alcohol & drugs and the workplace website

WorkLife has been designed to help workplaces respond to alcohol and drug issues and to develop alcohol and drug policies – the central component of any response to workplace alcohol and drug issues.

The resources available on WorkLife explain the who, how and why of workplace alcohol and drug use. The website contains downloadable fact sheets, how-to guides, toolbox talks, posters, handouts and videos.

WorkLife is a collaboration between the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (Flinders University) and the State Government of South Australia.

Simple Steps to Safety guide

Our Simple Steps to Safety guide, with useful templates and checklists, will help you to include work health and safety as part of your business planning. Following these simple steps can help you create a positive work health, safety and wellbeing culture that contributes to the success of your business.

Use our health and safety checklist to help identify alcohol and drug-related hazards in your workplace and find areas for improvement. Ask yourself these questions:

  • is responsible alcohol or drug consumption an accepted part of the workplace culture?
  • does your workplace provide support for isolated workers who have extended separation from family or friends?
  • do you have a drug and alcohol policy and are workers familiar with it? Use our sample policy to help get you started.
  • at work functions do you consider responsible provision of alcohol, including food and non-alcoholic drinks?
  • do you promote safe consumption of alcohol messages and the use of support services such as the Alcohol and Drug Information Service?

Seek information, advice and support from our free workplace advisory service if you need it.

Top 10 tips video

View our Top 10 Tips video, which can be used as a discussion starter or inspiration for toolbox talks and group exercises around sharing the responsibility for maintaining and improving health and wellbeing.


Seek information and support if you need it:

Further resources can be accessed from our Library catalogue.

Motivation events

Focus days or events can be a great motivator to do something positive about improving health and wellbeing, either personally or as a workplace group. Try the following: