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April 21, 2014
Health and safety tips for Alcohol Awareness Month

Only one in six adults say a healthcare professional has ever discussed alcohol use with them, and workers with alcohol problems are 2.7 times more likely to have injury-related absences. Have you addressed the potentially serious issue of alcohol abuse in and out of the workplace with your employees? Keep reading for important information.

Talking with a patient about alcohol use is an important first step in screening and counseling, which have been proven effective in reducing excess consumption. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 38 million adults in the United States drink too much, and many of them are employed. Excessive drinking causes about 88,000 deaths in the United States each year, as well as health and social problems, including heart disease, breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, vehicle crashes, and violence, among others.

Are the healthcare professionals who treat your employees addressing this sensitive subject? The CDC says screening and brief counseling can reduce the amount of alcohol consumed on an occasion by 25 percent. And screening and counseling can be covered by most health insurance plans without copay through the Affordable Care Act.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month: Here’s what you can do

Every year, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) sponsors Alcohol Awareness Month. The NCADD says workers with alcohol problems are 2.7 times more likely to have injury-related absences. An analysis of workplace fatalities showed that at least 11 percent of victims had been drinking.

Alcoholism impacts the workplace in four key ways:

  • Premature death/fatal accidents,
  • Increased injury and accident rates,
  • Absenteeism and sick leave use, and
  • Productivity declines.

Industries where the problem is especially high include food service, construction, mining and drilling, excavation, and maintenance and repair.

The problem is not primarily alcoholism. The NCADD cites research that links most alcohol-related performance problems with employees who occasionally drink too much, not with alcohol-dependent employees. Also, workers who live with an alcoholic experience problems that include lack of focus, absenteeism, and health issues.

What’s the answer? The NCADD believes that establishing an employee assistance program (EAP) is “the most effective way to address alcohol and drug problems in the workplace.” EAPs help employers assist in reducing the negative impact of alcoholism at work while reducing costs. Treatment pays for itself in reduced healthcare costs that begin as soon as employees begin treatment, adds the NCADD.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, EAPs, which also address mental health issues, contribute to:

  • Decreased absenteeism,
  • Reduced accidents and fewer workers’ compensation claims,
  • Greater employee retention,
  • Fewer labor disputes, and
  • Significantly reduced medical costs as a result of early identification and treatment of individual mental health and substance use issues.
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