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What are Signs That Drug or Alcohol Use is Becoming a Safety or Health Hazard at Work?

Supervisors can play a powerful role in improving workplace safety by intervening and encouraging workers with alcohol or drug problems to seek help. But just how can you tell whether a worker is misusing drugs or alcohol?

Both on and off the job, symptoms of alcohol or drug use may be physical (chills, smell of alcohol, sweating, weight loss, physical deterioration); emotional (increased aggression, anxiety, burnout, denial, depression, paranoia); and/or behavioral (excessive talking, impaired coordination, irritability, lack of energy, limited attention span, poor motivation).

While different types of drugs produce different physical symptoms or behaviors, there are numerous ways that misuse affects work behavior—and ultimately job performance and safety. It could be a sign of a drug or alcohol problem if a worker is:

  • Arriving late, leaving early and/or often absent.
  • Unreliable and often away from assigned job.
  • Careless and repeatedly making mistakes.
  • Argumentative and uncooperative.
  • Unwilling or unable to follow directions.
  • Avoiding responsibilities.
  • Making excuses that are unbelievable or placing blame elsewhere
  • Taking unnecessary risks by ignoring safety and health procedures
  • Frequently involved in mishaps and accidents or esponsible for damage to equipment or property.

It is important to note that if an employee displays these signs, it does not necessarily mean he/she has a drug or alcohol problem, but the possibility should not be over-looked.