Drug use on the job can increase the chance of injury to the user as well as those around them. Safety organizations realize the potential severity of the problem with data showing abuse of things like alcohol affecting almost one in four people over the age of 12. The potential risks associated with drug use can become more severe in work environments that require the operation of machinery or use of hazardous materials. Understanding the dangers of workplace drug use can help employers and employees avoid physical and emotional injury or fatalities.
Drug use often impairs a person’s awareness of their surrounds. This can lead to injuries by placing the abuser or those around them in physical danger when operating equipment. Dulled senses prevent a person from hearing or seeing others in the workspace. Accidental control activation or improper selection of machine features may endanger both equipment and operator. Alertness is a key safety factor that helps to prevent these scenarios.
Another impairment associated with substance abuse is the loss of motor skills. The ability to maintain hand and eye coordination is required for safe vehicle operation. A lack of motor skills can also place appendages in front of moving parts or other dangerous locations. Impaired body control can also cause a loss of balance as well as increase the potential for injuries such as concussions. Impaired motor skills could endanger other employees as well.
Mental and emotional damage is another consequence of using drugs. Production facilities use equipment that requires an understanding of complex controls. The loss of memory challenges an operator’s ability to use machinery correctly and to follow proper steps safely. This increases the chance of injury.
Emotional deterioration is a side-effect of many narcotics. This can cause distractions or lead to depression. The highs and lows of emotional states could lead to intentional dangers or injuries in the workplace. Unfortunately, consequences from altered emotions often affect those that work with the abuser.
The environment may increase the potential dangers of drug use on the job. Certain jobs are high pressure and can increase the use of alcohol or other drugs while a person is at work. Overworked employees may abuse substances to numb themselves or to stay alert. A better understanding of the consequences of high-stress jobs and environments that demand excessive physical stamina will help to reduce drug use at work.
There are things that an employer can do to help address workplace drug use. Statistics show that certain work sectors are more prone to drug use than others. Programs that recognize drug usage and assist with recovery can help to reduce job-related injuries, as recovering employees are less likely to endanger themselves or others.