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, “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.” Also, they found that 10-20 percent of work-related fatalities test positive for drugs or alcohol. Alcohol and drug abuse affect 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.

What are Workplace Accidents?

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 repeatedly. Oftentimes, 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, clients, and your community.

Substance Abuse in the Workplace

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

What Can You Do?

You can do a few things 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 they recognize the problem and see if they are willing to get help. If you cannot talk with the person or do 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 to 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 worksite 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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