Binge drinking affects workers and workplace safety

A new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), shows 17% percent of workers had a binge-drinking episode at least once a month that placed them at risk of harm, including injury or death, and 9% of workers had such an episode at least weekly.

The report, Alcohol and Work - patterns of use, workplace culture and safety, looks at previously unexamined aspects of the 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey and highlights the strong links between alcohol use and adverse workplace events, such as absenteeism and attending work under the influence of alcohol.

The report shows that nearly 7% of the workforce had attended work while under the influence of alcohol at least once in a 12 month period.

Nearly 4% of the workforce had at least one day off work in a three month period because of alcohol use, with drinkers who regularly consumed high levels of alcohol up to 19 times more likely to have taken a day off work than workers who drank at low risk levels.

The report found high levels of both regular and binge drinking in particular industries and occupational groups.

Report author Dr Ken Pidd of the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction, said women in the paid workforce were more likely then men to drink alcohol at levels that placed them at risk of long-term harm to their health. And female managers and supervisors were more likely to drink on a weekly basis than their male counterparts.

'Hospitality industry workers were more likely than those in other industries to regularly consume high levels of alcohol and were more at risk for long-term harm to their health,' Dr Pidd said.

High levels of workplace abuse or intimidation by persons affected by alcohol were also found in certain occupations and industries.

Nearly 14% of all reported incidents of 'being put in fear by a person under the influence of alcohol' occurred in the workplace. This was particularly true for workers employed in the health services, for whom 42% of all such events occurred in the workplace.

The report provides essential information for developing relevant policies and interventions related to alcohol in the workplace, and it identifies workforce development strategies to address work-related alcohol problems.

28 June 2006

Further information: Dr Ken Pidd, National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction, tel. 08 8201 7692.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel 61 2 6244 1032.