Drunk or high at work: Epidemic of boozy and drugged employees revealed

Alcohol and drugs major problem in the workplace, shocking survey reveals

Nearly a third of workers have admitted using drugs at work, and virtually every employee say they’ve been drunk when they were on duty.

These are the incredible figures from a survey carried out for a national health and safety law consultancy, which found significant numbers “under the influence” every working day.

According to the Protecting.co.uk company, the lunchtime drinking session has never gone away, costing British companies millions of pounds per year in lost productivity, with workers often defying company rules as well as health and safety regulations.

“The worst thing is,” says Protecting.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “People under the influence of drink or drugs in the workplace also increase the risk of an accident as they put both themselves and their colleagues in danger.”

Protecting.co.uk surveyed over 2,600 workers in office, factory, retail and the public sector, and found:

• 28{32ea1fbb2be3d0d7bafadc423360fa64825eea6dc77215e46a23ee2e2448fa06} admitted using drugs at work, including so-called ‘legal highs’, cannabis and other illegal narcotics
• 5{32ea1fbb2be3d0d7bafadc423360fa64825eea6dc77215e46a23ee2e2448fa06} of factory workers said they had used machinery after using drugs
• 85{32ea1fbb2be3d0d7bafadc423360fa64825eea6dc77215e46a23ee2e2448fa06} admit to being drunk at work in the last year, not including the Christmas party
• 31{32ea1fbb2be3d0d7bafadc423360fa64825eea6dc77215e46a23ee2e2448fa06} admitted to being drunk at work, or having their capacity to work significantly diminished through alcohol, at least once per week
• Of these, office workers were more likely to be drunk at work, while those working in retail or public-facing jobs were more likely to go the day sober
• 14{32ea1fbb2be3d0d7bafadc423360fa64825eea6dc77215e46a23ee2e2448fa06} of factory workers said they would drink alcohol at lunchtime, and then operate machinery in the afternoon
• Of 40 people who listed their jobs as driver, none say they took drink or drugs at work

“If you think that 5{32ea1fbb2be3d0d7bafadc423360fa64825eea6dc77215e46a23ee2e2448fa06} sounds low, that’s one-in-twenty factory workers saying they operate potentially dangerous machinery with their reflexes and judgement impaired by booze,” says Hall.

“That’s a frightening figure, and a recipe for serious injury or even death.”

Protecting.co.uk says that the huge majority of those who admitted taking drugs at work think the practice “harmless”, and typically told us that “a bit of blow is no different from smoking a cigarette.”

Others told Protecting.co.uk it was “To relieve the tension of working all day,” while others blamed boredom, simply telling us that “It helps the day go faster.”

Drug-taking at work is emerging as a growing factor in workplace accidents, with even ‘legal highs’ contributing to injuries, compensation claims and loss of production, Hall says. It’s specifically rife in younger people, with 90{32ea1fbb2be3d0d7bafadc423360fa64825eea6dc77215e46a23ee2e2448fa06} of those who admitted to using drugs being under 30 years old.

But it’s the lunch-time pint-or-three that remains one of the biggest causes of UK workplace accidents, Protecting.co.uk claims. Regular drinkers think they can handle their liquid lunch, the company says, but in the best case scenario, their speed and quality of work deteriorates after they’ve had a drink. At the very least, this results in lost production and customer complaints.

In worse case scenarios, accidents caused by alcohol remain high, and can be cited as factors in numerous cases of injury or death.

“Just one person on the shop floor or in the workshop incapable through alcohol puts everybody at risk,” says Hall.

“In a bank or an office, just one fat finger on a keyboard could cost thousands, millions, in lost trade. That’s the cost of a pub lunch,” he says.

Protecting.co.uk says that bosses need to be clear with their employees that drug use and drunkenness is unacceptable in their organisation, and they need to be seen to be enforcing their policies.

“This doesn’t mean a stream of sackings,” says Hall, “But that’s one of the options on the table. Business owners should also be able to offer assistance to problem drinkers and drug users – perfectly good workers should be helped back to an even keel.”

There’s nothing wrong with the odd drink at lunchtime, Protecting.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall is at pains to point out. However, when performance is hit by drink or drugs, it’s down to the employer to step in before damage is done both for the companies sake and the employees health.