Drug and alcohol experts are calling for more reduction measures to combat risky drinking behaviour in the construction sector, after an Australian study found one in six workers reported workmates being visibly affected by alcohol on site.
The 2020 study of more than 500 New South Wales (NSW) male construction workers found the prevalence of risky drinking was higher than the national average, particularly for younger (under 25 years old) and mid-aged (45-54 years) workers.
Flinders University Professor, and lead author on the study, Ann Roche said there was clearly a big need for “appropriate workplace policy and programs to address risky alcohol use in this male-dominated industry, particularly in these two age groups.”
“Changes to these cultural norms need to target workplaces at both an individual and organisational level,” she said.
Respondents were asked about their perception of risky drinking, the risk to workplace safety, quality of life and general health, and workplace attitudes to excessive alcohol consumption.
Not surprisingly, risky drinking behaviour was linked to poor perception of alcohol-related risks to safety. In addition, risky consumption among the middle-aged workers reflected midlife pressures, demanding work roles, and emerging mental health or age-related health issues such as high blood pressure, weight gain or diabetes.
“Mid-life is the peak age for alcohol-related deaths and the time when work-related performance/pressure is often greatest,” said Professor Roche. “Heavy drinking in this age group can result in disability or premature death, resulting in personal and substantial business losses.”
Respondents also said downsizing with downturns in construction cycles was a contributor to workplace stresses – a consideration for all organisations as the looming economic downturn brought on by the coronavirus pandemic takes shape.
The research was supported by NSW Health and the Australian Government Department of Health, with input from the building trades and Group Drug and Alcohol Program, Sydney.