Little is known regarding the alcohol consumption patterns of Australian workers and the impact these patterns have on workplace safety, workplace productivity, and worker1  well-being.

To address this issue:

  1. a comprehensive review of relevant literature was conducted, and
  2. existing data concerning Australians' alcohol consumption and alcohol-related workplace injury and other adverse workplace events were subjected to secondary analysis.

The results reported in this document represent a comprehensive overview of:

  1. the relationship between the workplace and alcohol use,
  2. current alcohol consumption patterns of the Australian workforce, using NHMRC guidelines for both short- and long-term risk (see Table 3.1, p 24 for definitions), and
  3. evidence of the extent of alcohol-related injury in the workplace.

This investigation yielded fruitful analyses and findings from previously unexamined aspects of the 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS). The analysis found high levels of risky drinking in particular occupational groups. It also identified strong associations between risky levels of drinking and adverse workplace events such as high levels of absenteeism and attending work under the influence of alcohol.

High levels of workplace abuse or intimidation by persons affected by alcohol were also found in certain occupations and industries, with highest prevalence among health and welfare professionals in particular, and workers in the health and hospitality industries in general.

In terms of alcohol and workplace injuries, few studies have adequately examined this issue. Injury is an important adverse event associated with risky patterns of drinking, however, no specific items addressed this in the NDSHS.

This report provides an essential building block upon which to develop relevant policies and interventions related to workplace alcohol consumption. The report provides both a comprehensive database from which to move forward as well as a new conceptual frame, with a focus on workplace culture, which will allow for innovative, broader and more flexible approaches to work-related alcohol use.

The report is also important from a workforce development perspective. Specific workforce development implications have emerged from this investigation that are relevant to 1) occupational, health and safety and 2) prevention interventions and policy developments. A set of key strategies are identified which address work-related alcohol problems from a workforce development perspective.

  1. Throughout this document the term 'worker' and 'employee' are used interchangeably.