Workplace Safety: The connection between On-the-Job Accidents and Addiction

Jul 8, 2021
Medically reviewed by Dr. Maroof Ahmed, MD on 
Nov 1, 2019

Nearly 11 million full-time workers in America struggle with a substance use disorder. In fact, addiction is an issue in every U.S. workforce, with one in 12 workers dealing with an untreated substance use disorder. The misuse of alcohol and drugs create costly medical, social and other problems that affect employers and employees. Key among them are workplace safety issues.

Drug and alcohol impairment can negatively affect an employee’s judgment and motor skills, which can result in near misses, injuries and property damage. The likelihood for workplace accidents skyrockets when employees are under the influence. According to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI), people who use alcohol and drugs are more likely to injure themselves and others, compared to those who do not drink or use substances, or who drink only socially or occasionally.

Safety hazards are just the start. 

The U.S. Department of Labor reported that drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace causes 65% of on-the-job accidents. Unsurprisingly, almost 16% of emergency room patients injured at work have alcohol in their systems. Despite the numerous safety protocols at the workplace, 40% of all industrial workplace fatalities are caused by individuals with substance use disorders, who may not have realized the danger they created by using at work or while recuperating from an alcohol or drug use disorder. 

Additionally, of those Americans who die at work, 10 to 20 percent of them have a positive result when tested for drugs or alcohol. Drug use skews decision-making skills and causes physical disablement, creating a deadly combination when on the job. Not only are these employees endangering themselves and those around them by operating under the influence, substance use disorders are the third leading cause of workplace violence with drug-using employees 3.6 times more likely to be involved in workplace accidents.  

Those with substance use disorder do not have to misuse drugs and alcohol on the job to have a negative impact on the workplace. 

An individual who is inebriated or hungover will suffer from decreased productivity and alertness, which can set the stage for workplace accidents. In fact, on-the-job accidents caused by inebriation or hangovers are five times more likely to injure someone. 

Nearly 100 percent of the time, these substance use issues jeopardize an employee’s career and financial wellness, which can lead to additional hardship, trauma, and stress for which they may continue to self-medicate. It’s important to address these issues within the workplace to not only cut down on medical costs, but to keep your employees safe. 

The workplace becomes a critical point of contact for Americans struggling with a substance use disorder. 

Employers are in a unique position to provide their workforce, families and communities with the support necessary to improve the well-being of their workers. 

While the task is not an easy one, it is vital to protecting the investments they’ve made in their business, brand and employees. Start keeping your employees safe by introducing a program that will empower them to confront their addiction(s) and provide a safe space for them to get healthy. 

Information and communications technologies can play vital roles in addressing and managing Substance Use Disorders in the workplace for both on-site and remote employees. Technologies can be used as adjuncts to traditional treatment or, in some cases, a stand-alone therapy. Employing a virtual addiction technology solution, like Quit Genius, can improve substance abuse and prevention treatment in a way that is cost-effective and increases reach to a broader population, including the many people with Substance Use Disorders who aren’t in treatment.When your employees are healthy, your business is healthy.

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