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Workplace Accidents and Drug or Alcohol Abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse has a significant impact on the workplace, with an estimated 15.5 million employed individuals admitting to illicit drug use, according to SAMSHA. Substance abuse causes more than just decreased productivity; it also substantially affects safety.  The US Department of Labor found that employees’ use of drugs or alcohol contributed to 65 percent of on-the-job accidents. 

Addiction in the workplace also goes beyond just the substance user. Disruptions and accidents in the workplace due to substance abuse have far-reaching implications, endangering the impaired individual, co-workers, employers, and those who have a relationship with a company, whether as consumers, clients, or partners. 

What are Workplace Accidents?

When people think about workplace accidents related to alcohol or drugs, most think of DUIs, or someone operating a vehicle or machinery while under the influence. The tragedies associated with car, airplane, railroad, or boat accidents are unfortunately newsworthy events. Frequently, we hear the driver, pilot, or captain at fault test positive for alcohol or drugs. The consequences of these accidents are severe. If the individual at fault were shown to be impaired, they would likely face criminal charges, civil suits, unemployment, and fractured personal relationships. The most tragic circumstances involve death or serious injury. 

However, most workplace accidents caused by substance use are not as high profile but can significantly impact a company’s operations, health, and finances. An intoxicated individual often has decreased physical functionality and alertness. This negligence and impairment can cause falls, cuts, broken bones, and other health concerns or injuries. Accidents due to drug or alcohol use also cause damage to property, machinery, or systems, which may create unsafe conditions for employees and visitors.

Additionally, employees who abuse illicit substances are ten times more likely to miss work, negatively impacting not only themselves and their responsibilities but also jeopardizing others. In many industries, increased absenteeism can make a company vulnerable to gaps in safety measures even if the employee with the substance use disorder is not present due to increased responsibility or lack of experience for other workers.

Addressing Substance Abuse in Your Workplace

To help prevent workplace accidents caused by drug, alcohol or polysubstance use, employers need to be familiar with the common signs and symptoms of substance abuse. Changes in behavior increased absence, and constant health issues could indicate an addiction disorder.  It is critical to address these signs with the employee to determine the cause of their negative actions.

Employers can also be proactive by consistently sharing available support resources and building trust in confidential communication channels. Many Employee Assistance Plans and addiction treatment organizations, including Bradford, offer training programs and resources for HR and other professionals to help them become more educated about addiction, how to seek help for employees, and maintaining compliance with Drug-Free Workplace requirements.

Workplace-related accidents due to alcohol or drug use are a severe issue that will only grow as addiction rates climb among the population. Prevention is the most critical safety measure, so take a proactive approach by educating yourself and employees on the signs of addiction and the treatment resources available.

Don’t let addiction take your most valuable resource – your employees! Call Bradford at 1-888-SOBER-40 to learn about our Employer Services.