The Risks Of Drinking On The Job

Dangers Of Drinking At Work

Drinking On The Job
Drinking at work can have serious consequences for both employer and employee

As an employer, the risks of employees drinking on the job are numerous. It's not only those actually physically consuming alcohol on the premises that can be a problem, either. 

Risks are present from those who drink before they arrive at work, go off at lunchtime and drink before returning to work and even those who drank too much the night before. Alcohol Effects on the Body These risks don't only affect the employer and his/her bottom line, but the rest of the employees, as well.

Alcohol related issues include:

· Safety

· Absenteeism and tardiness

· Poor performance

· Bad behavior

· Impacts on the morale of co-workers

· Negative image for the company

 Naturally, when drinking at work occurs, the employer can safely take action against the offending employee.

It is rare to see an employee manual that doesn't specifically state that drinking on the job is strictly prohibited. Typically, the same manual will outline the disciplinary actions to follow should an employee be found to be drinking on the job.


Drinking on the job displays a loss of control over alcohol, and may well be a sign of alcohol dependence. Maybe it's time to take an alcoholism test.

Residual Effects from Drinking the Night Before

Excessive drinking can lead to residual effects the following day. Depending on how much alcohol was consumed, a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) can still be elevated as the person is still impaired. If this is the case, the person would not be hung over or be experiencing any withdrawal symptoms.

The other option would be that the person is no longer intoxicated and instead is experiencing a hangover resulting from the night before. Common hangover symptoms include:

· Fatigue

· Dehydration

· Headaches and body aches

· Nausea and vomiting

· Dizziness

· Shakiness

· Decreased concentration

· Depression

· Anxiety

So how can these symptoms impact a person’s job performance?

One thing to consider, would be how they got to work if they do in fact still have an elevated BAC? Driving after a night of heavy drinking can still meet criteria for impaired driving which can result in legal troubles.

Being impaired is known to cause a decrease in a person’s coordination and result in poorer judgement which could lead to dangerous driving situations.

All of the symptoms combined are likely to decrease a person’s productivity at work. This is more concerning for individuals who have safety sensitive jobs compared to a non-safety sensitivity.

One would increase the physical risk of harming yourself and/or someone else. No matter what your job is, having any of these symptoms while at work would be uncomfortable.

Alcohol is known to impact our regular sleep cycle which can lead to tiredness. Sleep disturbances can also impact our memory which can have a negative impact on our ability to do every days tasks. Inadequate sleep or disturbed sleep can lead to a multitude of concerns including:

· Impaired ability to concentrate

· Impaired alertness

· Increase risk for health concerns such as heart disease and strokes

· Increase risk for depressive symptoms

· Can lead to memory impairment

· Contribute to weight gain

· Impairs judgment

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Drinking During a Work Shift

There are a few ways that this could look. Some individuals have alcohol in their car that they can drink before and throughout their shift. For some, there may be occasions where alcohol is provided for work functions, such as holiday parties.

The question would then be what is the purpose of drinking? This may be a warning sign of a more severe drinking condition.

As mentioned above, drinking during lunch breaks can occur. Similarly to residual effects of drinking the night before, this will likely have an impact on a person’s job.

The concern of safety arises if the person drinking is driving, and if they are driving with others in their vehicle. Drinking during a break can lead to poor concentration, poor coordination and poor judgments which can all have a negative impact on a person’s job performance.

Again, the same question regarding the purpose of drinking on breaks should be explored. Was this a social experience, a drink to relieve stress or drinking for another reason?

What an Employee Can Expect If Caught

In some cases, a company may handle things in a more lenient manner, particularly if they believe an employee is of value to the company and will be hard to replace or have a personal connection. In this case the employer may require the employee to go to a residential alcohol treatment center or undergo outpatient alcoholism treatment. This may also include continued monitoring once the recommendation for treatment is fulfilled.

Another option might be that the employee gets an official warning and is on probation at work, if they drink on the job again then more serious action will be taken.

The above attitude to drinking at work is relatively rare and many companies will terminate the work contract of any employee found drinking at work.

It is usually irrelevant as to the amount of alcohol consumed by the employee as any amount will detract from performance. Whether one beer or a six-pack, the employee will most often find himself hat-in-hand, without a job from that moment on.

If the employee caught drinking on the job is part of a union or has a particularly good contract with an employer, they might be lucky enough to keep their job but there will still be stern consequences.

At the very least, record of the incident will go in the employee's personnel file and usually there will be a written reprimand. Common consequences would be a condition for treatment. Treatment recommendations can vary from Detoxification, Inpatient Treatment and Outpatient Treatment.

Some companies may have a suspension process set up, similar to what you will find with the police or fire department. In those cases, the employees will face a suspension, usually without pay, for a certain period of time before being able to return to work.

This too may come with a recommendation or requirement for substance abuse treatment.

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Drinking At Work Affects Your Performance

If you are someone who takes a quick drink at work or has a few beers at lunch before returning to work, have you thought about the potential consequences of your actions?

Whether you think so or not, it has been scientifically demonstrated that alcohol impairs the judgment and the reflexes. Therefore, you will be more prone to making bad decisions and poor choices that could reflect in your job performance, no matter what the job duties may entail. It is also likely that your productivity rate would slow down as a result of alcohol being a depressant. 

Impairment of the reflexes can easily result in an accident occurring. You could injure yourself or others without meaning to. Not only would you have to face the consequences of possible termination of employment, you could face permanent disability from injuries.

Even worse, what if the permanent disability was to happen to a co-worker due to your impaired functioning? You would have to live with that guilt for the rest of your life. You could even be sued by the co-worker or the insurance company as a result of your drinking on the job.

It is not uncommon for us to have the thought “it won’t happen to me” regarding risks we take. This thinking tends to make us feel less guilty about doing something that we know we shouldn’t be doing, such as drinking on the job.

Even if your job does not have the risk of hurting yourself or others, you’re still putting yourself at risk for unemployment and all that would come with that.

Warning of a Larger Concern

When we think about a person drinking on the job, or being hung over at work frequently, it is not uncommon to worry that there is a larger concern at hand. Specifically, an addiction to alcohol.

Common consequences of an alcohol addiction include a negative impact on a person’s job. This can be on their performance, or even in their ability to be at their scheduled shifts. As noted above, there are consequences that follow being caught drinking on the job.

If a person loses their job as a result of their drinking, it may be worth considering talking to your Primary Care Physician about your concerns. It would be unfortunate for history to repeat itself and for a person to continue facing consequences for drinking on the job.

Treatment options that may be beneficial for a person in this situation would be Detoxification, Inpatient Treatment or Outpatient Treatment. Many alcoholics find benefits from engaging in social support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Smart Recovery. 

If you or someone close to you wants help and advice on quitting drinking then take a look at the following pages:


Return From Drinking On The Job To Alcohol Facts 

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