Workplace Alcohol Testing During COVID-19

[text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”left”]COVID-19 has had enormous impact on many businesses right across Australia, and in this series we will be looking at some of the many changes and new risks that have dramatically altered the landscape for workplace drug testing.[/text_block]

Increased Alcohol Use During Pandemic

[text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”left”]Many media outlets have reported increased sales and consumption of alcohol across Australia, as many of us deal with the stresses and anxiety of such uncertain times. However, this does pose increased risks for safety sensitive industries, many of whom are busier than ever in the recent months.[/text_block]
[text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”center”]“National polling by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), shows that 20 per cent of Australians purchased more alcohol and 70 per cent of them are drinking more alcohol than normal”¹[/text_block]

Alcohol Safety Risks Are Considerable and Widespread

[text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”left”]Alcohol has been a known risk for many years in terms of workplace safety, but even before the COVID crisis it has been an unfortunate feature of a number of Australian workplaces, and has regularly detected by WDTA member organisations for many years, both in terms of random testing as well as “for cause” incidents.[/text_block]
[text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”center”]“In spite of workplace safety issues, a study of more than 500 construction workers in New South Wales conducted last year found one in six workers reported workmates being visibly affected by alcohol on building sites”²[/text_block]

Safely Administering Alcohol Testing During a Pandemic

[text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”left”]Luckily the process for breath alcohol detection does not pose any greater risk of exposure to the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) which causes COVID-19, provided the rules of social distancing and personal hygiene are followed. These include appropriate use of PPE by collectors, physically distancing clients who will be tested, and ensuring all surfaces and equipment is cleaned before and after use.

It is important to keep the messaging around safety and fitness for work current and top of mind for employees, despite the many distractions and concerns of the current environment. Even where normal drug testing operations have been suspended, given the increased consumption of alcohol we are seeing Australia wide, random breath testing provides a safe, low cost risk mitigation strategy, while reinforcing the importance of fitness for work as an core principle of our workplaces.

Please contact us for any further information or feedback.[/text_block]

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¹https://fare.org.au/many-australians-using-more-alcohol-and-worried-about-household-drinking/ (accessed 14/5/20)

²‘Construction workers’ alcohol use, knowledge, perceptions of risk and workplace norms‘ (2020) by AM Roche, J Chapman, V Duraisingam, B Phillips, J Finnane and K Pidd has been published in Drug and Alcohol Review (Wiley) DOI: 10.1111/dar.13075

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