Working and drinking and driving
Updated: Nov 25, 2019
In the first of three blogs looking at drink driving and its impact on the workforce, we explore how you can reduce the risks.
If your business runs a fleet of vehicles, provides company cars or even has a workforce that predominantly drives to work, you need to know that your employees are safe when they drive and not under the influence of alcohol. In 2018, 48,000 drivers in England and Wales failed roadside breath tests and were prosecuted under the drink drive laws (Office For National Statistics, 2019). Conviction carries a minimum 12-month ban, a fine and potentially a community service order to boot. There are a few ways that this can happen. Each year, many people fall foul of the drink drive laws without even realizing it. The cost to the individual and the employer can be far reaching – reputational damage, increases in insurance premiums or uninsured losses, serious injury or death and a potential lawsuit if the employer is held accountable.
So, what can you to insure your business against drink driving? Here are some suggestions that will help you to keep your workforce safe.
Your alcohol policy
I know, I know, I bang on about this a lot but a well-written policy, tailored to your workforce is the single most important step you can take to keep your business and your staff safe from alcohol-related harm.
It should answer clearly the following questions:
If convicted of a drink drive offence, must your employee inform their manager/HR?
Who should they speak to if they think they may have a problem controlling their consumption?
What are your rules around corporate hospitality, especially if this may put someone in a position where they are tempted to drive under the influence?
Is alcohol ever allowed at work/before work/during breaks/at corporate events or parties/on overnight stays away?
Education, education, education
Is it safe to drive after a couple of pints? What is a ‘unit’? How long does it take your body to process alcohol? Can you cheat a breathalyzer with a copper coin? Any driver who doesn’t know the answers to these questions and drinks alcohol could be breaking the law unwittingly. It’s easily done. I’ve worked with dozens of individuals who genuinely believed that, having slept, showered and eaten a hearty breakfast, they were no longer affected by what they’d drunk the night before. Others have thought that, as they didn’t feel intoxicated, the couple of drinks that they had earlier in the evening wouldn’t put them at risk of being over the limit.
A drink-drive conviction can be devastating for all involved. As a criminal offence, it needs to be declared for DBS checks, on travel visa applications, for home insurance quotes and more for a period of at least five years. Not to mention the strain it puts on others who may rely on the driver to get around. The worst-case scenario doesn’t even bear thinking about.
Consider your contribution
Under the Transport and Works Act (1992) and the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) an employer may be held accountable for the actions of an employee who is working under the influence of alcohol, unless they have ‘exercised all due diligence’ and fulfilled their duty of care re employee health and safety. It’s wise to tackle alcohol problems early. Not only is prevention better than cure, it’s cheaper, easier and healthier all round. Of course, an up to date alcohol policy and workforce education will go a long way to tackling this one but there is more that you can do.
An alcohol culture audit
Why not take a culture audit? Think about what your organisation’s alcohol culture says to your employees (and your clients). If you’re a boozy group - and some industries are far more tolerant, even encouraging of drinking behaviours than others – how might this look if an employee who’s been out wining and dining a client on the company credit card then drives home? Or if an employee develops a problem controlling their drinking but still feels obliged to join in the daily after work ‘sesh’ in the local? Or is called a ‘lightweight’ if they bow out early?
If you’re smiling smugly at this point and thinking this doesn’t apply to your workplace, consider how often you overhear: “Guess how wasted I got at the weekend?” or “Shhh! I’m hungover. Pass me a Berocca and my Ray-bans and don’t bother me until lunch time” conversations.
Do you have a wellbeing aim? Wellbeing has become a bit of a buzzword but if you’re looking at mental health, stress, obesity, heart health… then encouraging your staff to think about their alcohol consumption will link to all of these. Just make sure that your message gives advice on safe(r) drinking, not just a litany of the evils of the demon drink.
While we’re on the subject of wellbeing, Alcohol Awareness Week is just around the corner so it’s a great opportunity to download some resources from the Alcohol Change UK website and kickstart your awareness campaign.
How about starting with the quiz below, to see what you already know about drinking and driving and your workforce. (The answers will be published in the next blog.)
1. You can be prosecuted under the drink-drive laws even if you have no alcohol in your body. Do you know how?
2. If a woman drinks two pints of lager (5.2% ABV) and a man drinks two large glasses of wine (13% ABV)…
a. who will have consumed the most units?
b. who will have the highest percentage of alcohol in their blood an hour later?
3. Are you breaching the drink drive laws if you ride your bicycle whilst under the influence of alcohol?
4. How many ‘sick days’ are taken off work each year in England and Wales because of alcohol?
5. If you have a drink drive conviction can you still drive an HGV vehicle? A forklift truck?
6. If the company provides free booze at the Christmas party and an employee is arrested for drink driving on the way home, whose responsibility is it?
7. How many people are injured in drink drive collisions each year?
8. On what grounds can the police require a breath test from a driver?