June 16th, 2015


(no subject)

At home today. Opportunity to study. So:

The current HR Guidelines for development of workplace drug and alcohol policy* make a bunch of claims about the negative effects of employees' drug and/or alcohol use, and the cost to employers of same. These claims are referenced to a report by the International Labour Organisation** published in 1993. The claims are as follows:

• absenteeism is two to three times higher for drug and alcohol abusers than for other employees;(i)
• some 10 per cent of accidents at work involve intoxicated workers;(ii)
• over 10 per cent of on-the-job fatalities are linked to drugs and alcohol;(iii)
• employees with drug and alcohol problems claim three times as many sickness benefits and file five times as many compensation claims.(iv)

As you can see, those claims are also referenced. So I checked them.

(i) covers the claims about absenteeism and accidents, and is a study from 1994 that focuses entirely on alcohol: Webb, G., Redman, S., Henrikus, D., Kelman, G., Gibberd, R. and Sanson-Fisher, R.: "The relationship between high-risk and problem drinking and occurrence of work injuries and related absences", inJournal of Studies on Alcohol, 55:434-446 (1994).

(ii) is about workplace accidents and their relationship with alcohol: Hingson, R., Lederman, R. and Walsh, D.: "Employee drinking patterns and accidental injury: A study of four New England States, in Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 46:298-303 (1985).

(iii) is a study of occupational fatalities that used coroner's reports to identify the likelihood of alcohol and other drugs being the culprit. They found, and I quote (because I looked up the study): "Alcohol abuse was the most frequent finding in workplace fatalities, compared with all other drugs. In particular, alcohol use was more likely to be implicated in fatalities involving motor vehicle accidents, falls, and being caught in or under equipment. The use of illicit drugs did not seem to be a significant factor in many cases." Alleyne, B., Stuart, P. and Copes, R.: "Alcohol and other drug use in occupational fatalities", in Journal of Occupational Medicine, 33:396-500 (1991).

(iv) Was so poorly referenced that I could not find it online at all. Might be a journal that's gone out of print. Either way, there's no way of knowing what Cohen had to say, but I know I'm not allowed to pin *my* academic claims on one author whose work can't be looked up: Cohen, S.: Drug Abuse and Alcoholism, Vol. 12 (6) (1983).

So there you go folks. NZ's guidelines for workplace drug and alcohol policies make claims that are based in research that is at least 20 years old, mostly covers alcohol, and has been creatively extrapolated in a way that makes it look as though illicit drugs cause problems that are not supported when references are checked.

I expect better, personally.

* http://www.hrinz.org.nz/Site/Resources/Knowledge_Base/A-H/Drug_Testing_.aspx (see the link 'Alcohol and Drugs') Developed collaboratively between Alcoholic Liquor Advisory Council, Accident Compensation Commission, New Zealand Drug Foundation, and Department of Labour.
** http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/gb/docs/gb273/esp-3.htm#1. Problems and issues