Kevin Minson

Kevin Minson


    Launch of wide-ranging report on use of alcohol and drugs in workplace

    30/05/1996 12:00 AM



    Mines Minister Kevin Minson today launched a wide-ranging report on the use of alcohol and drugs in the workplace.


    Mr Minson said the report `Alcohol and Drugs in the Workplace - Issues, Trends and Practices' had been compiled by the Chamber of Mines and Energy and the Western Australian Alcohol and Drug Authority.


    "The issue of alcohol and drugs use and the workplace is being given a greater emphasis by both industry and governments in the nineties," he said.


    "This report offers a valuable range of strategies and ideas for consideration as well as identifying some of the main problems faced by industry.


    "It is clear that a wide range of illegal and prescribed drugs is used in our community and there is also ample evidence mis-use of drugs and alcohol adversely affect the level of on-the-job safety.


    "The report found the majority of those who use alcohol and drugs in a hazardous way are employed.


    "It also found that this can add to pre-existing risk factors in workplaces such as stress and poor or low supervision.


    "It is a complex area and one which cannot be fixed by legislation and law alone - in many cases strategies tailored to the individual workplace need to be negotiated and put in place.


    "For example, an isolated mine site where employees both live and work on site would need a different approach from that of an industry located near a town or the metropolitan area where the workforce commute."


    Mr Minson said it was an unfortunate fact that a worker under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or suffering the after-effects, could create a problem not confined to that worker alone.


    "Given the big, complex and often dangerous machinery used in the mining area, for example, the poor performance of one worker may lead to problems for others," he said.


    "In the most extreme case, it could lead to loss of life."


    Strategies which might be combined to address the problem include:


    + developing and implementing a written strategy;


    + implementing a workplace health promotion program which might include information and education and effective health promotion programs. Some employers have provided employees with good recreational and accommodation facilities as alternatives to high risk drug use;


    + high-quality supervision to reduce the risk of alcohol and other drug-related harm with an emphasis on general work performance;


    + successful programs could also include training health and welfare staff; and -


    + counselling and support services may need to be offered to those who develop alcohol and drug-related problems. Such programs reduce the level of harm in the workplace and can mean the difference between retaining a good employee and losing them.


    Mr Minson said the report also addressed the use of drug testing as an option.


    "However, while this strategy appears to have some merit, it can be very expensive and there are no controlled studies which demonstrate drug testing reduces drug use," he said.


    "Due to the increasing emphasis on safety in all workplace, a report such as Alcohol and Drugs in the Workplace is a valuable tool in the fight against injury and accidents."


    Media contact: Caroline Lacy 222 9211 or 222 9595