Workplace drinking program a stone cold success

Ken Pidd_FlindersWP
NCETA’s Dr Ken Pidd coordinated the program in Victorian workplaces.

A Flinders University program tackling the impact of drinking on Victorian workplaces has reduced incidences of binge drinking and coming to work hungover by more than a third.

The findings, from the Workplace Reduction of Alcohol-Related Harm Project (WRAHP) developed by Flinders’ National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA) and LeeJenn Health Consultants, come as statistics show up to a quarter of manufacturing workers consume more than five standard drinks at a go and come into work under the influence.

WRAHP, was funded by VicHealth as part of its Creating Healthy Workplaces initiative. Conducted in Victorian workplaces over three years in partnership with LeeJenn Health Consultants and Victoria’s South East Business Network, WRAHP is one of the most successful interventions against workplace drinking and hangovers.

Dr Ken Pidd, Deputy Director (Research), NCETA, said it included a range of tailored and nuanced alcohol harm reduction policies, tools, resources and training programs that could be applied in a wide range of situations.

He said one of its greatest successes was in changing workplace culture and how workers viewed drinking at work or coming in hungover themselves.

“It’s very significant that workers’ attitudes to alcohol, their awareness of workplace alcohol and drug policies, and their access to alcohol-related health and wellbeing services also improved during the project,” said Dr Pidd.

“These results support NCETA’s own extensive research, which indicates that cultural change only happens when there is a full appreciation of the wide range of factors that influence alcohol use.

“To this end, we also trained workplace supervisors and managers on how to effectively implement workplace alcohol and other drug policies and procedures.”

Dr Pidd said management training had given them the confidence to apply their own alcohol and drug related policies and procedures so that employees could get the help they needed.

The findings from the WRAHP were publicly released at VicHealth’s Workplaces into the Future forum last month.

The full WRAHP report: Creating healthy workplaces: Reducing alcohol-related harm, is available to employers, policymakers and workplace health practitioners from NCETA’s website at http://nceta.flinders.edu.au/general/news/creating-healthy-workplaces-reducing-alcohol-related-harm/

Information on NCETA’s Worklife Program, which is targeted at employers who want to know more about what they can do to reduce alcohol and other drug related harm in their workplace, is also available on the site.

NCETA offers a range of services to workplaces including:

  • Risk assessments to identify existing and potential risks to workplace safety
  • Reviews of existing workplace policies
  • Creation of customised and best practice AOD policy and policy implementation
  • Development and implementation of best practice employee awareness and supervisor and manager training
  • Ongoing support, mentoring and monitoring.

For more information about the WRAHP, Worklife and NCETA’s other workplace programs and resources, contact the NCETA at nceta@flinders.edu.au or by telephone on (08) 8201 7535.

The Creating Healthy Workplaces Programs were funded by VicHealth. You can find out more about these programs at https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/media-and-resources/publications/creating-healthy-workplaces-publications

More information on the Creating Healthy Workplaces research/project  

An evaluation of the project was undertaken by monitoring project outcome data over a three year period and making comparisons with similar data obtained from other Dandenong manufacturing workplaces which did not receive the tailored strategy.  This evaluation found the project was effective in significantly reducing employee risky drinking and presenteeism (the number of employees coming to work with a hangover), while improving awareness of the workplace alcohol and drug policy, and access to EAP and other alcohol and drug related health and wellbeing services.

The evaluation also found significant improvements in managers’ and supervisors’ understanding of how to recognise and respond to alcohol and drug related risk in the workplace and how to implement the policy and deal with affected workers.  Importantly, the evaluation also indicated that the project improved levels of workplace communication concerning alcohol, drug and other worker wellbeing issues and levels of trust between supervisors and employees in relation to open communication about worker wellbeing issues.

Overall the project is one of the few evaluation studies to examine the effectiveness of workplace alcohol and drug risk management strategies undertaken to-date in Australia or internationally.  The project was successful in reducing workplace alcohol and drug risk to safety and productivity and demonstrated that tailored strategies that adopt a ‘whole-of-workplace’ and fit with the day-to-day demands of production are effective.

Quotes from participants in WRAHP:

  • Policy awareness and understanding of policy implementation procedures

“Let’s not forget that when we started off… nobody knew we had a drug and alcohol policy. So, we’ve gone from having no awareness whatsoever to having awareness, to then having some good conversations about it…...”

  • Awareness of workplace alcohol and drug risk

“It’s not until you actually delve into it a little bit deeper that you actually realise what the ramifications can be of people being under the influence or hung-over”

  • Understanding of how to respond to risk

Yeah, someone [in my team] was struggling … I gave them that information [local area resource guide] and they followed it up with their doctor as well. And ongoing treatment’s happening.”

  • Understanding of employee referral processes

“Knowing where to go, having the pieces of paper, and being able to say well you have a problem and here are the contact points for you to go are helpful.”

  • Levels of workplace communication concerning alcohol, drug and other worker wellbeing issues

“To engage everyone. Not just management. Not just team leaders. It’s got to go through so that everyone talks about it, and no one is talking about it like this. Everyone’s just talking about it like it’s normal.”

  • Levels of trust between supervisors and employees in relation to worker wellbeing issues

“They don’t have to make up a story that they’re sick or anything else. They can be honest and it’s so much easier to deal with honesty because it proves that not to be honest and something else goes wrong well then you start doubting what they tell you. So that side of it has been positive, very positive.”

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