It’s nearly the “season to be jolly”, so it’s time to put plans in place to ensure that your workforce doesn’t take the idea too literally. How can you make sure employees on your watch remain safe over the festive season?
The problems with alcohol consumption go beyond the obvious issues of drunkenness at work. Not only should staff avoid consuming alcohol while on the job, they must not work while still under the influence from the night before.
Even a small amount of alcohol in the system has the potential for staff to act differently: reactions may become slower, co-ordination reduced and judgement impaired.
None of this makes for a safe working environment, especially when using machinery or operating transport.
In addition, alcohol can cause short tempers or other unpleasant behaviour, and no one should be put in an uncomfortable position of this nature while in the workplace.
Tip 1. Make it abundantly clear to anyone completing safety-critical operations, e.g. driving or operating machinery, that they must not have any alcohol in their system.
If staff are unsure how much they’re able to drink the night before, issue them with guidance explaining how long alcohol stays in the bloodstream (see The next step ).
Tip 2. Encourage workers to report to management if they have reason to believe a colleague is under the influence of alcohol. During training explain that it’s in everyone’s interests to do so.
Your policy on alcohol needs to be made clear regardless of your type of business. Even in a low- risk environment, e.g. an office, employees need to travel to work and be able to carry out their duties.
Tip. In your terms and conditions of employment, include a general requirement to comply with the company’s health and safety policies - including drug and alcohol. This will make it a disciplinary offence if staff ignore your requirements.
When organising Christmas functions ensure that your rules on alcohol are consistent with your usual policy. If you make an exception you’ll find it difficult to enforce your requirements at other times.
Tip 1. If a staff party is on the agenda, think about the timing to reduce the risk of staff being under the influence at work. For example, a mid-week party could well result in inebriated staff coming to work the next day. If you can’t avoid bad timing for all staff, state up front that your usual rules on alcohol apply so that staff expectations are managed.
Tip 2. If you have reason to believe that a member of staff is under the influence of alcohol, take them to one side and calmly challenge them. There is no possible way of reducing the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream quickly. So if you remain concerned send them home - but make sure they’re not driving. Make it clear that under no circumstances are staff to come to work while under the influence of alcohol. If you have reason to believe they are send them home. If staff need persuading that they could be affected the next day, issue guidance on how long the body takes to break down alcohol.
Taken from Tips & Advice Health & Safety, Issue 4, 30th October 2019
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