SOC402 Contemporary Social Problems & the Workplace
February 6, 2011
Alcohol and the Workplace
People have a long love affair with alcohol. However, with all love affairs, sometimes thing take a wrong turn. Many people are dependent on alcohol, which can in turn lead to problems in their life. When a person’s alcohol use affects the workplace it becomes a major problem. Besides the health issues to the individual, alcohol use, and abuse, negatively affects workplace safety and productivity, plus it increases medical costs. Oddly enough though, the social aspects of the workplace often can and do contribute to the use and abuse of alcohol. Further, unhappiness with work and working long hours or odd shifts can contribute to the problems alcohol has in the workplace. These problems can lead to consequences such as job loss and increased health costs, however, there are solutions to aid in preventing alcohol’s negative affects in the workplace. Those who allow alcohol to affect their performance in the workplace often suffer consequences due to their alcohol use. But fear not, if you enjoy drinking there are ways to enjoy alcohol responsibly. The intent of this paper is to look at all these areas, relate most of them to personal experiences from a previous place of work and provide solutions. I offer such solutions as striking a responsible balance in your drinking, effective workplace policies, possible government initiatives and an Air Force program dubbed 0-0-1-3, to minimize alcohol use and abuse in the workplace. With nearly 6 million working Americans bringing their alcohol problems to the workplace (Jacobs & Schain, 2010, p. 1) alcohol use and abuse causes problems and affects productivity. A major problem is in the safety issues it raises. Someone under the influence of alcohol or suffering from a hangover due to too much drinking the night before can quickly become a liability for not only themselves but for everyone in the workplace. For instance, I used to work in a unit of Military Police, called SFS in the Air Force, at the largest Air Force test installation. SFS troops are responsible for securing the installation, protecting the people, places, and equipment of the base and enforcing all applicable state and federal laws. Further, they carry loaded weapons in the performance of their duties. If they are under the influence or suffering from a hangover they jeopardize the security of the installation and the nation. Additionally, they endanger the lives of everyone they come in contact with, which can be hundreds of people a day. If they are not at their peak performance daily they could kill an innocent person, allow an assailant or terrorist to get away with a serious crime or lose their life due to their indulgence. With reference to productivity loss, the Institute of Alcohol Studies concluded in a study that alcohol affects workplace productivity by increasing absences, causing otherwise able workers to become unable to work, and premature deaths among those who are of working age (2009). The study showed the “three factors account for a total alcohol-related output loss to the UK economy of up to 6.4 billion (British pounds)” (2009), the equivalent of more than $10 billion. Referring back to my prior unit, when an individual was suspected of being under the influence or incapacitated due to drinking the night before we acted swiftly. We would not allow them to arm with a weapon or, if they were already armed, we immediately took their weapon from them. They were then placed in administrative duties until we could complete an investigation and administer the proper punishment if deserved. This caused hundreds of lost man-hours per individual, reducing the productivity of our unit. Problems in the workplace and lost productivity are not the only work related issues with regard to the affect of alcohol use in the workplace. There are...