OSHA states that you have the right to a safe and healthful workplace, free of serious recognized hazards. While we may think only the "obvious" hazards in our workplace are potentially dangerous, such as machinery, chemicals, noise, or traffic, there is something that is just as dangerous that we may not be aware of.
Alcohol and drug use in the workplace is a very real hazard to a company and its employees. Using drugs or alcohol impairs decision-making capabilities and can also physically impair people. This is a potentially lethal combination when on the job. In fact, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), of all drug and alcohol users, about 75% hold regular jobs, and in approximately 10% of the cases where employees are involved in deadly accidents at work, the deceased tested positive for drug or alcohol use.
The use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace does not just impact the user but everyone in the work environment. Substance abusers may have poor work performance, frequently call in or arrive late to work, and struggle with productivity, leaving coworkers to pick up the slack or cover for the user. Employers run the risk of deadly or dangerous accidents occurring, having employees that aren't dependable or perform poorly, or even fraudulently file for workers' compensation claims and benefits.
What should you do if you suspect someone is abusing drugs or alcohol? There are signs that are typical of intoxication but, as drugs and alcohol affects people differently, some of the following signs may be confused with common illnesses. If you think you are witnessing a coworker with signs abusing drugs or alcohol, you should tell your supervisor or human resource manager as soon as possible. Some signs and symptoms to look for are:
• Erratic behavior
• Extreme mood swings
• Glassy eyes
• Slurred speech
• Frequent absenteeism
By not bringing this behavior to immediate attention could be deadly, increasing the likelihood that an incident may occur. You should never feel that you are risking a coworker's job. In actuality, you could be saving their life and the lives of your coworkers, and it may encourage them to seek the help they need!
For more information, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) or Employment Screening Resources websites.