The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) (1996). Don’t mix it – A guide for employers on alcohol at work.

 This booklet has been developed to help the owners and managers of small and medium-sized businesses deal with alcohol-related problems at work. It reaffirms the Government’s commitment in The Health of the Nation1 to encourage employers to introduce workplace alcohol policies and evaluate their impact.

Ninety per cent of personnel directors from top UK organisations surveyed in 1994 stated that alcohol consumption was a problem for their organisation. Most regarded alcohol as a fairly minor problem, involving a small number of employees. However, 17% of personnel directors described alcohol consumption as a ‘major problem’ for their organisation. The issues which concerned directors most often were as follows:

  • loss of productivity and poor performance;
  • lateness and absenteeism;
  • safety concerns;
  • effect on team morale and employee relations;
  • bad behaviour or poor discipline;
  • adverse effects on company image and customer relations.

These concerns are equally important for small and medium-sized businesses. They fall into two main areas:

  1. Alcohol-related absenteeism and sickness absence. Alcohol is estimated to cause 3-5% of all absences from work; about 8 to 14 million lost working days in the UK each year. How much is alcohol-related absence costing your business?
  2. The effects of drinking on productivity and safety. Alcohol consumption may result in reduced work performance, damaged customer relations, and resentment among employees who have to ‘carry’ colleagues whose work declines because of their drinking. There are no precise figures on the number of workplace accidents where alcohol is a factor, but alcohol is known to affect judgement and physical co-ordination. Drinking even small amounts of alcohol, before or while carrying out work that is ‘safety sensitive’, will increase the risk of an accident.

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of people who have a drinking problem are in work. The good news is that people with drink problems can and do cut down, and that there are places throughout the country where people with drinking problems can go for expert help.

The prospect of tackling when and how much employees drink can be daunting, especially for businesses without a personnel specialist. But acting to prevent problems before they occur can save time in the end and is often more effective than dealing with a problem that has become too serious to ignore.

Any business, however small, can take practical steps to minimise the risks associated with inappropriate drinking. This booklet includes examples of action taken by businesses to prevent alcohol-related problems. ‘Sources of advice and information’ lists organisations that can provide further information and help.

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