LEADING EDGE | Westcon
Hangovers Exposed Are Workers Still Intoxicated From The Night Before?
It has been a tough day. You make your way home, sit down in front of the TV, pop open a beer and unwind. You sit down for dinner and have another, and another. Before you know it, you have had too much. It’s been a rough day, and you need to let lose, you invite some friends over and before you know it, its 3 am, you are lying in bed and you can’t remember how you got there.
The situation of how it starts may differ, but the end result is always the same – illness and fatigue. Importantly, there is a strong possibility that when you clock in for work later that morning, you have a hangover and alcohol is still in your system. This can have dire consequences.
One alcoholic beverage takes a full hour to make its way out of your system and includes one standard sized beer, 130ml glass of wine or one and a half tots of spirits. If a lot of alcohol is consumed, it can take many hours for it to work out of your system. By the time a person clocks in for work, there could still well be an excessive amount of alcohol in their system, impacting their ability to execute their work and possibly putting their colleagues in danger.
The effects of alcohol on the body are significant, particularly when feeling the ill effects of ‘the night before’. Your body hurts due to inflammation, your heart is put under strain as the effects of anxiety are heightened, endorphins crash and dehydration sets in, not to mention the effects on your stomach - your body loses its ability to absorb minerals and vitamins for a period of time. Your brain function lessens by up to half due to an overuse of dopamine takes place when intoxication sets in and the body goes into a state of orthodoxic hypotension, causing dizziness and nausea.
“The problem with a hangover is that you don’t realise you have one as a large percentage of the time you are still intoxicated when you wake up. The brain does not register the change between being sober and being intoxicated. If you wake up and don’t feel the after effects of the night before, it’s because you are still intoxicated and chances are that at around lunch time you will begin feeling fatigued and ill, your sugar levels begin dropping rapidly and the individual’s wellness begins deteriorating.
It is obvious that these effects on a worker operating a crane, forklift or heavy machinery could easily result in an accident, or even death. However, many employers miss the signs and after an incident occurs, claim to have taken the necessary preventive steps. Many employers do take the minimum precautions necessary to attempt preventing accidents, however, the impact of an incident happening is far greater on the company than the implementation of regular testing before and even possibly after a work day. If an incident occurs in a mine for example, the mine will be shut down for a period of time whilst an investigation occurs, as well as fines incurred, this is a costly procedure, employers would be better off testing more often as opposed to random testing procedures.
The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) laws make provision for this. It states that no employer may legally allow an employee on site if they are or appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This includes tell tail signs such as smelling of alcohol or exhibiting symptoms of a hangover. In such a case, the employer is liable for more serious repercussions than the employee should an accident occur.
It is management’s function to ensure the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Policy is compiled and ratified. Importantly, they need to ensure that employees comply. The formulation of the Policy is a crucial process and requires input from all levels of management, and a fair amount of policy content will be decided upon from the results of past experience in dealing with the problem.
It is important to revise your alcohol policy regularly in regards to amendments made by the department of labour, often white collar workers think that they are exempt to the rules as most accidents that matter take place on construction sites or in mines. This is not the case. It is a contradiction to the OHS act have intoxicated employees in the work place, even if you are an IT company. Those Friday drinks at the office are according to the OHS act not allowed in any workplace and should you trip and fall down the stairs and injure yourself or another employee, it is seen as gross negligence where management can be held legally liable for knowingly allowing such behaviour to take place on company premises. Furthermore if someone is killed criminal charges may be brought against those responsible.
Often the concept of working through a hangover is spoken of in jest between co-workers and friends, however, the reality is that you are working with a hangover and, you are likely still intoxicated. This should be the first thing you remember whilst driving to work the day after a heavy night. Technically, you are driving under the influence of alcohol. Next time you consider laughing a hangover off with your mates, consider the consequences of causing an accident where someone is injured or killed and the other driver notices the smell of alcohol on your breath. Besides the jail time could you live with the guilt?