Is your work force tipping a few at lunch? Research indicates that in the course of a year, nearly 9 million workers consumed alcohol during the workday, and another 2.3 million arrived at work already under the influence.
Employers looking to increase the impact of their substance-abuse awareness efforts may do well to target these efforts toward younger, single male employees, according to the new study on alcohol use and impairment in the workplace.
The new research, conducted by the University of Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions and funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, suggests that working under the influence of alcohol or a hangover was more prevalent among men compared to women, among younger workers compared to older workers and among unmarried workers compared to married workers.
Overall, the study indicates that workplace alcohol use is more common than some may think, affecting 19.2 million workers--approximately 15 percent of the U.S. work force.
That figure may seem small, but it has a direct link to high costs for U.S. businesses: Up to 40 percent of industrial fatalities and 47 percent of industrial injuries can be linked to alcohol consumption and alcoholism.
The researchers estimate that 2.3 million workers (1.8 percent of the work force) consumed alcohol at least once before coming to work, and 8.9 million workers (7.1 percent of the work force) had at least one drink during the workday.
Most workday alcohol consumption is reported to have occurred during lunch breaks, although some is reported to have occurred during work or other breaks. Additionally, the study concludes that 11.6 million workers (9.2 percent of the work force) worked with a hangover.
On the positive side, the research suggests that most on-the-job alcohol use was infrequent. For workers reporting drinking during the workday, 62 percent did so less than monthly, 24 percent did so monthly and 14 percent did so weekly. Of those reporting drinking before work, only 4 percent did so weekly.
Certain occupations showed higher rates of workplace alcohol use and impairment. These included management occupations, food preparation and serving occupations, arts/entertainment/media/sports occupations, and building and grounds maintenance occupations. The findings mirror 1999 data from the Department of Health and Human Services, which also indicate high rates of alcohol use among construction workers, transportation and material-moving workers.
Employee shifts also factored into the equation, as employees working evening and night, nontraditional, and swing shifts, as well as irregular or flexible hours, were more likely to have consumed alcohol prior to coming to work. Notably, those working nonstandard shifts (anything other than day shift) were also more likely to consume alcohol during the workday and to report being under the influence on company time.
Study results were obtained through telephone interviews of 2,805 employed adults throughout the United States, aged 18 to 65, who answered questions based on their experiences during the prior 12 months. Interviews were conducted between January 2002 and June 2003.
While the study makes no differentiation as to company size, small to midsize companies seem most vulnerable to the potentially devastating effects of workplace alcohol use. Department of Labor statistics show that among the population of heavy drinkers employed full-time, 36 percent work for small companies, 47 work for midsize companies and 17 percent are employed by large establishments.
March 1, 2006
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