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Drunk at work? Workers' compensation may still be available

If you find yourself spending an excessive amount of time during business meetings in bars, you may have a problem. No, you are not the one with the alcohol abuse issue -- your workplace is. Workplace environments that focus on drinking as a rite of passage or prioritize alcohol during work-related parties and events may be considered to have a drinking culture. Sadly, this could have an effect on the frequency and nature of workers' compensation claims, according to some workplace experts.

A drinking culture can easily develop at a workplace if alcohol is available and policies are not strictly enforced. In some instances, workers and managers are unsure about policies related to drinking at work. Further, some workers may be confused if the policies are not being enforced. Some workers may also be more vulnerable to being injured on the job because they feel peer pressure to drink or see their managers drinking during the workday.

Ultimately, workplace cultures that support alcohol may have a big effect on the risk of workplace injury accidents. If workplace celebrations almost always involve alcohol, or attendance is sparse when alcohol is not served, a drinking culture problem may exist. Employers can combat the problem through developing, implementing and enforcing a zero-tolerance drinking policy. Testing may also be necessary.

Surveys show that about one in 10 drinkers and drug users have missed work because of a hangover, while about one in 16 have gone to work high or drunk during the past 12 months. That should be considered a startling statistic, especially considering that substance abusers of all kinds are about a third less productive than their sober counterparts.

Workers who are intoxicated on the job when they suffer a workplace injury accident may still be able to recover financial damages for the incident. A variety of legal precedents exists to determine whether a worker was wholly at fault for the injury. A workers' compensation attorney may be a valuable ally in court for those employees who have been injured on the job while intoxicated.

Source: The Washington Post, "Does your workplace have a drinking culture (and problem)?" Joyce E. A. Russell, Mar. 09, 2014

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