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Christmas Cheer Can Become A Workplace Hazard

10 December 2008

Christmas Cheer Can Become A Workplace Hazard

Christmas celebrations give workers a chance to have some fun at the end of a busy year, but suffering through ‘the day after the night before’ can create a workplace hazard.

The effects of overdoing alcohol at Christmas functions can impair a worker’s ability to do their jobs properly and safely, which puts them at risk of injuring themselves or their co-workers.

``We estimate about a quarter of all injury claims to ACC are alcohol-related,’’ said ACC’s General Manager, Injury Prevention, Katie Sadleir. ``Often the injuries don’t happen when the person is intoxicated, but the next day when they’re hungover or fatigued. They may not be able to function fully or make good decisions, and that makes them a danger at work and on the roads.

Last year over 19,000 people suffered a moderate to serious injury during their Christmas holidays. It’s the worst possible end or beginning to a year!

Employers have a legal responsibility to manage workplace hazards and an alcohol-impaired worker is a hazard. Recently ACC, along with the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC) and the New Zealand Drug Foundation, released a booklet to help employers deal with this issue.

The ‘Alcohol and other Drugs in the Workplace – Employers Guide’ suggests ways to develop a robust workplace alcohol and drug programme in consultation with employees and their representatives. The booklet’s focus is on prevention, education, counselling and rehabilitation.

``Of course there’s a difference between how to deal with a worker who has an on-going problem with alcohol and someone who’s just overdone the Christmas cheer. But the bottom line is that both workers are an injury risk,’’ Ms Sadleir said.

``And while employers can’t control what their employees do outside of work hours, they can control how they behave at work. They can also ensure workers don’t overdo it at their own work functions. Largely this comes down to being a responsible host; providing non-alcoholic choices, filling and healthy food, and encouraging guests not to drink too much.

``With almost 48% of New Zealand’s full-time workers classified as ‘binge drinkers’, alcohol will very likely be something all employers have to deal with at some time. It is certainly an issue to be aware of during the festive season,’’ she said.

The ‘Alcohol and other Drugs in the Workplace – Employers Guide’ is a free resource available from ACC. For a copy please call 0800 844 657 quoting reference number ACC4460. A PDF of the guide can also be downloaded from


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