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Among drugs and other substances that affect performance in the workplace, alcohol is easily the most common.

In the U.S., roughly 1 in 13 adults (nearly 14 million people total) are alcoholics or alcohol abusers, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Not surprisingly, this causes problems in the workplace. Various studies have calculated the workplace costs from alcohol to be between $33 billion and $68 billion per year, from absenteeism, workplace accidents and on-the-job injuries, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The good news is that workplace programs to prevent the abuse of alcohol hold enormous potential, according to research from the National Institutes of Health.

Tips for preventing alcohol abuse in the workplace:

Employee support, treatment and counselling services: Many workplaces contract with an outside provider to provide support programs for workers. Commonly known as Employee Assistance Programs, these confidential services provide counselors to help employees manage issues such as alcohol and drug abuse, mental health and emotional problems, marital and family struggles, financial battles, dependent care problems and other personal issues that can hamper the employee’s work.

Maintenance of working conditions: Major life changes are one common reason that employees might increase their drinking, but there are other factors that could lead to alcohol use in the workplace. Among them are isolation (working away from family and friends), extended working hours or working at odd hours, bullying and harassment, poor working conditions, inadequate supervision, low job satisfaction and work-related stress, and organizational change. When employers work to give their employees the best possible setup, they may be able to reduce the potential for alcohol abuse.

Workplace education and training: Regular workshops with employees on the dangers of mixing alcohol with the workplace — and of abusing alcohol in general — also can help. Research has consistently shown that workers who receive on-the-job training about alcohol consumption are more motivated to reduce their use of alcohol.

Promotion of health programs: In addition to education programs, employers also can encourage healthy habits among workers. Addressing alcohol issues within larger health campaigns can be an effective means of motivating employees to make healthier choices regarding risky drinking and lifestyle in general.

Workplace alcohol testing: A program at work to regularly test employees for breath-alcohol content can go a long way toward maintaining a safe and productive workplace. But it’s not as simple as buying a testing device and conducting random screenings. The person administering the test needs the proper training, both to comply with government regulations and to instill confidence in employees. Rich Bosman, Bostec’s president, is a former law enforcement officer who trains extensively throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska to help employers establish proper workplace drug and alcohol testing programs.

For further information about workplace testing or other ways of reducing the impact that alcohol use can have on the workplace, contact Bostec Inc. in Lynden, WA.


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