Posts in February, 2013

Return to work management systems

audit report February 27th, 2013

As the leading provider of injury management services in the ACT, our reputation is built around the successful management of complex cases with positive and durable return to work outcomes.

With this background, SRC Solutions is well placed to provide assistance to workplaces  under the Comcare scheme in reviewing their rehabilitation management systems.

Our Audit team includes a qualified Lead Auditor and experienced consultants who will use the Comcare Rehabilitation Management System tool to review your systems. This will provide you with a clear report outlining the strengths of your rehabilitation management systems, as well as opportunities for improvement.

If you would like to know more, call 62826122

One of the most sensitive subjects to surface in recent times relates to alcohol and the impact it has in our workplaces

To put things into perspective 80.5% of Australians 14 years and over reported consuming a full glass of alcohol in 2010. Alarmingly that figure includes people under the legal drinking age of 18 years and over.

According to the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE) the total estimated cost to Australia’s society resulting from alcohol related harm is $14 billion. Heavy drinkers not only cause harm to themselves but to others around them, including their workmates.

Drinking alcohol is very much a part of the Australian culture, but this culture also has a much darker side which manifests itself in behaviours, that in some cases have a devastating effect on the community.

The ABC program Four Corners aired ‘Punch Drunk’ on Monday 25 February, highlighting the massive social impact of too much alcohol. The program not only showed the personal tragedy which resulted from a drunken rage attack on a young man in Tweed Heads three year ago, but also the strain to our police, paramedics, trauma doctors and hospital emergency departments each week as a result of excessive drinking.

FARE reports that more than 70,000 people are involved in alcohol fuelled assaults each year, and a worrying trend has emerged where violence (including domestic violence) and aggression are becoming common place, reaching crisis proportions.

David Templeman, Chief Executive Officer of the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA) concurs and says we are facing a huge problem. David says he is particularly concerned with the “culture of drinking to get drunk and pre-loading before going out for the night.” most evident in young people.

A major problem for workplaces is the lack of comprehensive research and data available on this subject directly relating to the work environment; however from the available evidence alcohol associated harm in the workplace is a serious issue.

There is little recent data available, but it is believed that the burden of cost to workplaces back in 2004 was is in excess of $4 billion per year (Alcohol and other Drugs in the Workplace, Final Project Report 2006, WorkSafe SA).

Absenteeism, presenteesim, injury, lateness, staff turnover, accidents, reduced performance and increases in workers’ compensation claims are just some of the alcohol related issues faced by workplaces.

Workers who front up to work  intoxicated or who drink during work hours are placing their colleagues at risk of injury and depending on the industry they work in, even death. Medical evidence shows that it only takes 5 minutes to feel the effects of alcohol on the brain. Some of the short term symptoms range from impaired judgment, slurred speech to slower reflexes and poor coordination.*

It is important to remember, that the consumption of alcohol does not automatically mean a person has a problem. What needs to be considered is the pattern and frequency of drinking; in a work context this may be evident in a person’s attendance record and in their general presentation.

Unfortunately, there is little workplaces can do if a staff member consumes alcohol outside of work hours. This may change if a worker develops a pattern of absence which eventually results in a drop in their performance. In some cases a worker may behave in a manner that clearly breaches set codes of conduct, and this is where a workplace can step in.

Other steps workplaces can take to ensure they minimise the risk of alcohol related harm is to have a comprehensive policy on alcohol and other drug use.

David says that workplaces also need to lead by example:

“The best thing they can do if they have social activities and events is to not serve alcohol and make it a big feature that you are not going to serve alcohol, if we are going to change the culture in this society it has to start with all of us”

David also suggests workplaces should be mindful of the kind of message they are sending to their staff if they choose to provide alcohol during work hours at social functions. The availability of alcohol at work can be interpreted by staff that drinking during work hours is acceptable behaviour and that there are exceptions to the rule.

Another avenue for managing alcohol related problems in the workplace includes the help provided by employee assistance programs (EAP) and drug and alcohol testing kits.

Workers need to agree to be tested and this raises a very complex set of circumstances for managers. It may be one thing to recognise someone has a problem with drinking but verbalising these concerns is another issue altogether. Even if there is strong evidence that a worker has a problem with alcohol, encouraging them to seek appropriate help can be difficult.

The key message to workplaces is to ensure the culture within the organisation does not inadvertently condone alcohol. Setting clear guidelines in relation to alcohol and what is acceptable can help workers stay within the parameters of these guidelines. Making sure you clearly communicate to staff the existence of any policies is important as is involving them in the drafting of principles around this issue.

Although David says we are a long way from getting a handle on the issue, he believes we will eventually see the Government take a stand against alcohol related harm similar to the stand against tobacco, but not just yet. In the meantime, we can collectively take small steps to help on an individual level to raise awareness and minimise the risks in our workplaces.

SRC Solutions would like to thank the Alcohol and other Drug Council CEO Mr David Templeman for his time to provide us with information on this subject and Mr Rob Gill for organising the interview.

The National Medical and Research Council released the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol in 2009. Please access the link provided for the most up-to- date guidelines.

Other useful resources

*Effects of Alcohol