Preventing alcohol and drug related harm on our roads

Alcohol and drug issues in the workplace, particularly on the road, can be expensive, disruptive and difficult to manage. 

But workplaces in the heavy vehicle industry also have a great opportunity to set their employees up for success, and to deal with any issues in a positive way.

There are a number of ways you can take action:

  • Develop or update your alcohol and drug policy 
  • Make sure your employees understand your policy, including their responsibilities, through education to prevent incidents from happening;
  • Take a considered approach to drug testing 
  • Make sure your managers/supervisors are well supported through resources like fact sheets to identify and manage alcohol and drug problems and incidents; and
  • Provide employees who do have problems with alcohol and/or drugs with information on free support services

Why be concerned about alcohol and drugs and driving?

Research has demonstrated that drivers with alcohol and/or drugs in their system are more likely to be involved in a crash; whether they are the cause or because they are unable to take immediate action to prevent an incident caused by another person. Around one in five drivers killed had a blood alcohol concentration 0.05% or more (the legal limit for large vehicle drivers in Victoria is 0.0%) and 12% had drugs in their system.

Some Australians use alcohol and drugs as a way to socialise but some are also using it for other reasons, including to cope with stressful situations or to relieve pain. Over a 12 month period, the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (2016) found that:

  • 26% misused alcohol at least once a month
  • 13% consumed illegal drugs
  • 5% misused pharmaceutical drugs (excluding over-the-counter pharmaceuticals)

Bar graph showing misuse of alcohol and other drugs

The most obvious consequences of a crash are serious injury or death, but some of the other costs involved in a crash could also include:

  • Damage to your vehicle and any equipment in it;
  • Lost work time;
  • Replacement vehicle and equipment costs;
  • Administrative time in dealing with the crash;
  • Reputation of your business;
  • Possible increase in insurance claim;
  • Damaged/destroyed customer goods; and
  • Unsuccessful insurance claims due to alcohol and drugs being a factor in the crash.

Many people don’t realise they can still be under the influence after drinking the night before, how a hangover or medication can affect their work, or how long a drug can stay in their system. This lack of awareness can result in some drivers getting behind the wheel without understanding the risks.  

Responsibilities

Everybody in the workplace has a responsibility when it comes to health and safety. There are a range of factors that impact on an employee’s ability to work safely, including alcohol and drugs.

Research has demonstrated that an employee’s work can deteriorate when they are intoxicated, hungover, ‘coming down’ from drugs or taking medication– including through:

  • Slow reaction time;
  • Clumsiness;
  • Blurred vision;
  • Tiredness;
  • Bad judgement;
  • Memory loss; and
  • Mood changes leading to aggressive behaviour.