Workplace Accidents and Drug or Alcohol Abuse

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Drug and alcohol abuse can easily lead to workplace accidents. According to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA, “Of the 17.2 million illicit drug users aged 18 or older in 2005, 12.9 million (74.8 percent) were employed either full or part time.” In addition, they found that 10-20 percent of work related fatalities test positive for drugs or alcohol. Alcohol and drug abuse affects people beyond the substance abuser. Substance abuse endangers your co-workers, employers, and those who have a relationship with your company, whether as consumers, clients, or partners. Workplace accidents due to alcohol and drug abuse can have far reaching implications.

When people think about workplace accidents related to alcohol or drugs, many consider someone who drives a vehicle under the influence. The tragedies associated with truck, car, airplane, or boat wrecks come on the news over and over again. Often times, the driver, pilot, or captain at fault tests positive for alcohol or drugs. Causing injury or death to others is tragedy enough, but these individuals also face criminal charges, civil suits, unemployment, and fractured personal relationships. These consequences are not just for those who use alcohol and drugs while driving, but any workplace. This includes people who operate heavy machinery, doctors, military personnel, paralegals, cooks, grocers, and anywhere else. If you are not clear-headed, you could injure yourself, your co-workers, your clients, and your community.

Despite the numerous safety protocols at the workplace, 40% of all industrial workplace fatalities are caused by substance abusers. These people may not realize the danger they create by using at work, or while recuperating from alcohol or drug abuse. An individual who is inebriated or hungover has decreased productivity and alertness. This means workplace accidents are more likely to happen. In fact, workplace accidents caused by inebriation or a hangover is five times more likely to injure someone. In addition, substance abusers are ten times more likely to miss work, negatively impacting themselves and others by jeopardizing their jobs and creating backlogs.

There are a few things you can do if you suspect your colleague or employer abuses drugs or alcohol. Depending on your relationship with the person, you can talk to him or her. Ask whether he or she recognizes the problem, and see if he or she is willing to get help. If you are unable to talk with the person, or if it does not seem to affect the person, you can reach out to others. Some companies have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which provides counseling and guidance tos employees. You can also discuss your concerns with a supervisor, and explain how you think drugs or alcohol affects workplace safety. Finally, you can contact your Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) field office anonymously to report work site safety concerns.

The possibility or occurrence of workplace related accidents due to alcohol or drug abuse is a serious issue for all involved. Whether you are chemically dependent or know someone in the workplace who is, complacency really is not an option. You may feel it is none of your business but the truth is you, your co-workers, the community at large, and the substance abuser are all at risk for injury or fatal accidents. Your workplace should be a safe space and the only way to prevent a tragedy is to take action.

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