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Workplace testing for alcohol misuse should be considered --- campaigner

A recent study showed that a quarter of the UK workforce — around seven million people — drink at hazardous levels.

Updated at 10.42am

A LEADING HEALTH campaigner in the UK has called for businesses to bring in new procedures to reduce harm and increase productivity among workers who drink in excess.

Director of the Alcohol Health Network Don Shenker says employers should take pre-emptive action in the area. Writing in the British Medical Journal, he says the use of standardised screening for alcohol misuse has been “highly effective and cost efficient among NHS patients in primary and secondary care”.

He says that staff could be offered confidential use of programmes like ‘AUDIT’ (the alcohol use disorders identification test) which “may well help prevent problems with alcohol at an earlier stage”.

Shenker says that though group drinking amongst staff “fosters greater team spirit and acts to reduce stress”, there are also many workers who are in danger of losing their jobs if their drinking gets out of control, and asks: “Who is ultimately responsible, the employer or the employee?”

He writes:

Offering staff confidential use of AUDIT and brief advice as a self awareness initiative at work, whether through face to face interactions or leaflets, may well help prevent problems with alcohol at an earlier stage.

In this way, staff, who may be concerned about their drinking or whose level of drinking is not yet apparent to them, can assess the risks their drinking poses to their health and take appropriate action. Reducing hazardous drinking also reduces the risk of dependent drinking occurring.

Online alcohol interventions in the workplace offer further advantages of anonymity, privacy, scalability, and constant accessibility.

Shenker also points to recent US research which shows that, over a four year period, for every $1 spent on screening staff with AUDIT (along with other measures), companies saved $4 in sickness costs, absenteeism, and other expenses.

A 2009 study showed that one quarter of the UK workforce (around seven million people) drink at hazardous levels.

Alcohol Action Ireland CEO Suzanne Costello said she didn’t think it would be wise to place the burden of responsibility on “any individual group”.

“We would place the emphasis on evidence-based measures like minimum pricing and regulation of marketing and availability,” she told

She added that there was “overwhelming evidence” to suggest this was the best way to tackle the problem.

This article was originally posted at 10am.

Related: Vintners want supermarket ads for cheap alcohol outlawed

Also: 6 things we learned from Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s Cannabis Regulation Bill

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