Alcohol abuse is one of the major public health concerns facing South Africa. The country has some of the highest rates of alcohol consumption, misconduct, violence, and trauma associated with alcohol abuse. According to a study carried out by the Medical Research Council (MRC) states, “South Africans consume over five billion liters of alcohol per year”, reports the organization. The statics will increase this year. According to FSP Business,” over R240 billion, the equivalent to 10% of South Africa’s GDP, is the amount of money the country loses due to alcohol abuse each year,” reads the report. Furthermore, Minister Davies says,” South Africa currently has the highest level of alcohol consumption in the world at 10-12% as compared to the world average of 6%,” a statement recently confirmed by fact-checking website Africa Check
Alcohol abuse remains one of the major challenges faced by workers in the country. Many employees arrive at work drunk with alcohol smelling on their breath. Some even consume alcohol during working hours or slip out of work for “quick one”- this behavior has increased in the past years. The problem is not restricted only to alcohol but extends to other toxic substances that have a narcotic producing effect. These include tik, Nyaope, cocaine etc. About 6% to 16% of the average workforce is alcohol dependent and 20% is likely to experience drug-related issues. According to survey carried out by the Mine Health and Safety Council ( MSHC) established that, “In South Africa, the prevalence of alcohol dependence among adults is estimated as 10%, while that of risky drinking among workforces such as the mining industry has been estimated at 25% or more,” reads part of the research.
The organisation further reveals that ,” the prevalence of risky drinking among mine workers was found to be 32% and the majority of these employees were in unskilled or semiskilled occupations (8) while 32% were reported among unskilled manual workers, while the lowest rates (9.1%) occurred among professionals (9) ,” says the statutory body.
It is not easy to identify alcoholics in the workplace though there are some ways that point to alcohol and possibly drug abuse. These include:
- Unexplained and frequent absences
- Overreaction to real or imagined criticism
- Irregular work patterns and low productivity
- Indifference to personal hygiene
- Exhaustion, hyperactivity, slurred speech, an unsteady walk
Nicolene Erasmus says ,” this type of behaviour constitutes misconduct – and all employers should have a company policy in place, that has been communicated to all employees, regulating the consumption of alcohol on company premises, and also off company grounds, where it might affect adversely on the employer, the worker, or the employee’s ability to perform his / her duties,” she explains.
She adds,” if the employer has no such company policy in place, then that employer has a problem, namely that he cannot take disciplinary action against an employee for breaking a rule that does not exist,”. We agree that not every law has to be reduced to writing, on the basis that some rules are so well known that they do not have to be put in writing. However, it will greatly complicate matters if there are no such regulations in the workplace, and it will make for much smoother sailing if the regulations are in place.
The Alcohol Policy must be tailor-made to suit each company-there is no “standard policy” for this type of thing. For instance, the employer would need one set of regulations applicable to workers engaged in hazardous occupation- machine, truck drivers or equipment operators, forklift drivers and so on. The acceptable level of alcohol in blood in such personals would be a much lower level than that which would be acceptable in an office worker. BlueCollar offers treatment programmes for employees suffering from alcohol and substance abuse. We offer one-on-one counseling, and group sessions if requested by a particular company