Alcohol and drugs

This page is for: 
Employee / workerEmployer

Alcohol and drugs can affect a person’s ability to work safely. This includes medicines that are prescribed or over-the-counter. 

Duties relating to drugs and alcohol 

Everyone in the workplace has work health and safety duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2020.

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) have a duty to protect workers from the risks associated with the use of alcohol and drugs.

As a PCBU, you must manage health and safety risks. This might include setting specific policies for the use of drugs and alcohol.  You must, so far as is reasonably practicable: 

  • ensure the health and safety of workers and others at your workplace
  • consult with workers who carry out work for the business or undertaking and who are (or are likely to be) directly affected by a health and safety matter, and
  • consult cooperate and coordinate activities with all other relevant duty holders.

All workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and not adversely affect the safety of others. Workers must:

  • be fit and well enough to do their job
  • not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • not use alcohol or illegal drugs while at work.

FAQs on alcohol and drugs

Why should there be a policy on alcohol and drugs in the workplace?

There are a number of reasons why it may be appropriate to develop a workplace policy on alcohol and other drugs: 

  • A PCBU could be found in breach of the general duty to provide a healthy and safe workplace that is free from hazards if injury or harm is suffered as a result of alcohol or other drug use. 
  • Having an alcohol and other drug policy demonstrates management commitment to a healthy and safe workplace. 
  • Having a clearly defined policy with supporting procedures in place will assist the PCBU to provide a safe workplace and manage drug and alcohol related issues in the workplace. 
  • The existence of a policy also provides a means of informing employees and other people at the workplace about what behaviour is acceptable in relation to alcohol and other drugs. 

Can we serve alcohol at work functions?

When having drinks or a celebratory meal with work colleagues, consider that:

  • everyone is entitled to be treated with respect; 
  • ground rules are set for behaviour before the event; 
  • the venue is as safe as possible; 
  • if you are serving alcohol, make sure food, non alcoholic drinks and water are also served to encourage people to drink sensibly; and, 
  • taxis or alternative forms of transport are available for people who may be tempted to drink and drive.

What action can a PCBU take if they think a worker is affected or impaired by alcohol or drugs?

If a person appears affected or impaired by alcohol or drugs, the PCBU has an obligation to make sure the person or any one else at the workplace is not put at risk.  

If a policy exists for this situation, it should be followed.  In the absence of a policy, the PCBU should determine the most appropriate course of action, which may include making arrangements for the person to get home safely. 

It should not be assumed that any observed impairment is caused by alcohol and/or other drug use. Other impairment factors may include fatigue, medical conditions, chemicals, heat, noise and symptoms of work-related stress.

How should a PCBU approach someone affected by drugs or alcohol in the workplace?

Impairment can be caused by a range of factors, including alcohol and other drug use. The focus at the workplace should be on managing health and safety risk rather than more general concerns about personal health.

Where the ability to work safely is impaired, the PCBU and workers should respond in a humane manner based on the information available.

  • Be brief, firm and calm. 
  • Use the affected person’s name; repeat your message ('I am instructing you to stop work for the day. Arrangements will be made for you to go home'). 
  • Do not argue or debate; simply repeat your message. 
  • Avoid using terms such as 'You’re drunk'.

Further information

Last modified: