The specific recognition of alcohol consumption and drug use as a potential health and safety hazard means it must be managed just as you would manage any other workplace risk.
How do you identify drug and alcohol related issues?
Drugs work depending on how they are taken, where they are taken, and how many are taken. All drugs can have side effects, even legal drugs. For example, drunk people have taken too much alcohol. The alcohol has affected their ability to make choices, to keep their voices down, to think before they speak, and to walk properly. The intoxicated person may also want to have a fight, or to argue with other people.
Signs and symptoms
Both alcohol and drugs have hangover effects that can continue beyond consumption and drug use. It is important to note that other factors (such as fatigue) may also display hangover effects.
Signs and symptoms that may indicate a person is adversely affected by alcohol or drugs include:
- loss of inhibition
- impairment of co-ordination, judgement, intellectual capacity and ability to act quickly
- blurred vision
- slurred speech
- in some cases feelings of exhilaration, energy, increased mental alertness
- lackadaisical, “I don’t care” attitude
- delayed decision making
- poor concentration
- strong and severe mood swings
- walking with a blank stare and disjoined walk (e.g. PCP)
- dry mouth and throat
- increased appetite
- dulled reflexes
- hangover-headache, shakiness, nausea and vomiting
- chronic fatigue and lack of motivation
- distinctive odours of substances used
- impaired coordination, concentration, and memory
- slowed speech
- irritating cough, chronic sore throat
- reddened eyes (often masked by eye drops and glasses)
- impaired tracking and visual distance
- distortions in time estimation
- “bad trips”, unpleasant psychological reactions that may include panic, confusion suspicion, anxiety and loss of control
- dilated/ constricted pupils depending on which drug they have used
- needle marks or open body sores
- physical and moral deterioration
Be mindful that these signs and symptoms could be as a result of some other mechanism other than drugs or alcohol. Signs and symptoms alone cannot confirm impairment related to alcohol and other drugs.
The understanding of your role in OHS law
Alcohol and other drug use is a major contributing factor in workplace accidents.
The use of alcohol and other drugs becomes an occupational health and safety issue if a person’s ability to exercise judgment, coordination, motor control, concentration and alertness is affected at the workplace, leading to an increased risk of injury or illness.
All workplaces in Australia are subject to Occupational Health and Safety Laws. All persons who enter a workplace have rights and responsibilities. In some states these are called obligations.
This means that you may have multiple responsibilities or obligations depending on your role in the workplace or your purpose for being there. You may be an employee, and a supervisor or manager, at the same time. In that case you would have obligations in each of these capacities.
Even volunteers and visitors entering a worksite have responsibilities or obligations.
Your individual role in complying with Occupational Health and Safety laws is contained within various state Workplace Health and Safety Acts. There are severe penalties in place for failing to meet your obligations and responsibilities.
Obligations to self and others
As an individual entering a workplace, you have specific workplace health and safety responsibilities to yourself and to others.
- comply with instructions given for workplace health and safety
- use personal protective equipment if the employer provides it and if you are properly instructed in its use
- not wilfully or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided for workplace health and safety at the workplace
- not wilfully place others at risk
- not wilfully injure yourself