Alcohol-related harms (the negative consequences associated with alcohol consumption) are an important and growing health issue in Canada and a leading cause of injury and death.1 Alcohol use also carries substantial costs for individuals, workplaces, and society. In 2014, the cost of alcohol-related harms in Alberta was $2.4 billion, including $1.1. billion in lost productivity.2 In 2015, 81% of Alberta workers used alcohol in the previous 12 months.3 In 2015, 14% of Alberta workers exceeded Canada's Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines, putting them at risk of long-term effects such as liver disease and certain cancers.3
The use of alcohol can have negative impacts on work performance and present serious safety risks. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers have the responsibility of providing a safe workplace.4 Workplaces have made strides in changing the acceptability of alcohol at the worksite. In 2009, only 14% of Alberta workers said that alcohol was allowed on their worksite compared to 40% in 1992.5
Workplaces can build a supportive environment to employees by developing policies, offering alcohol misuse programs and services, training and education, and raising awareness of workplace supports and low-risk drinking guidelines. Workplaces can help to reduce alcohol-related harms and support healthy lifestyles by promoting a culture of moderation based on the Canadian low-risk drinking guidelines.6 Workplace norms that are supportive of drinking, such as workplace sponsored events including alcohol, can influence employee’s drinking behaviour even if the workplace does not directly endorse drinking. When alcohol use is addressed in the workplace, it benefits both employers and employees. It contributes to better employee health, increased job satisfaction and reduced stress and depression. Employers benefit from reduced healthcare costs, lower absenteeism and higher productivity.7
- Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Alcohol harm in Canada: Examining hospitalizations entirely caused by alcohol and strategies to reduce alcohol harm. Ottawa(ON): CIHI; 2017.
- Rehm J, Baliunas S, Brochu S, Fischer B, Gnam W. Patra J, Popova S, Sarnocinska-Hart A, Taylor B. The costs of substance abuse in Canada 2002. Ottawa (ON): Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. 2006.
- Statistics Canada. Canadian Tobacco Alcohol and Drug Survey. Ottawa (ON): Statistics Canada; 2013.
- Statistics Canada. Canadian Community Health Survey 2013-2014 Public-use. Accessed through Nesstar. Ottawa (ON): Statistics Canada; 2013.
- Government of Alberta. Occupational Health and Safety Act. Edmonton (AB): Government of Alberta; 2017. Available from: https://www.alberta.ca/ohs-act-regulation-code.aspx.
- Thompson A, Jacobs P, Dewa C. The Alberta survey of addictive behaviours and mental health in the workforce: 2009. Edmonton (AB): Institute of Health Economics; 2011. Available from: https://www.ihe.ca/publications/the-alberta-survey-of-addictive-behaviours-and-mental-health-in-the-workforce-2009
- Beirness D, Gliksman L, Butt P. Alcohol and health in Canada: a summary of evidence and guidelines for low-risk drinking. Ottawa (ON): Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse; 2011. Available from: http://www.ccsa.ca/Resource%20Library/2011-Summary-of-Evidence-and-Guidelines-for-Low-Risk%20Drinking-en.pdf.
- Alberta Health Services (AHS). Alcohol in the workplace. Alberta: AHS; 2017. Available from: https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/hp/edu/if-hp-edu-amh-alcohol-in-the-workplace.pdf.