Roy Morgan Research found during a study that 3 out of 5 Australians are now over eight or obese, despite smoking less and reducing alcohol consumption. What’s an employer to do? Sometimes it seems like it is impossible to win at times. One thing improves, and the situation gets worse in another area. It can be difficult to interpret the mixed signals that statistics deliver, but the message is clear that workplace drug and alcohol education should be integrated with wellness programs.
The Chief Executive of Roy Morgan, Michele Levine, explained the study conducted on the status of the nation’s healthy. The study found that less alcohol is being consumed (good news), the number of people smoking has declined (good news), but more Australians are overweight (bad news) and experiencing anxiety (bad news). The three out of five Australians who are overweight with a body mass index of over 25 are more likely to suffer health effects like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.1
Health AND Safety Go Hand-in-Han
Maintaining a safe workplace is an excellent principle, but it requires the ability to balance all the factors that influence health and safety. Drugs and alcohol in the workplace are dangerous for many obvious reasons. For example, approximately 10 percent of workplace deaths and 20-25 percent of workplace accidents are related to drug and alcohol use. However, drugs and alcohol also increase the chances of one worker verbally or physically abusing one or more coworkers. General statistics show that 1 in 4 Australian employees have been verbally abused by an alcohol user, and 1 out of 50 have been physically abused by someone using illicit drugs.2
Drug and alcohol users and smokers are more likely to experience medical problems and call in sick. They drive up health care costs which directly impacts the employer. When people are overweight, some of the same issues are at play. People who are overweight are more likely to take sick days or develop expensive health conditions or get fatigued easier. They tend to have less flexibility, which can impact their ability to do their job. It was estimated that the 2010 cost to Australia associated with people being overweight and obese was $21 billion, a number likely to have grown by now.3
Fit For Duty Includes Fitness
What is an employer to do to balance all the factors that go into a safe workplace? Testing for drugs and alcohol is one strategy for maintaining a healthy and safe workplace. But being overweight and developing associated problems like high blood pressure and lack of flexibility impact worker safety too. Fit for work is influenced by multiple factors that includes drug/alcohol use, physical fitness, emotional distress, and fatigue.
Mediscreen can help employees better understand the consequences of lifestyle choices by providing them with health snapshots of their health status in critical areas like blood pressure, cholesterol level, lung airflow, and BMI. A wellness program coupled with a random drug and alcohol testing program gives employers the assurance they are going the extra step to maintain safe and more productive workplaces.
- Rachael Brown, “Australians smoking and drinking less, but getting fatter and more anxious: report,” ABC News Australia, (9 July 2014), Retrieved at http://ab.co/1lhArIC.
- Andrew Ermer, Manager, “Managing Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace,” National Construction Services – Australian Industry Group – presentation to Australian Government, Department of Employment, Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner (n.d.), Retrieved at http://bit.ly/1texI5h
- “Australia’s obesity costs blow out to $21 billion,” The University of Sydney, (3 March 2010), Retrieved at http://bit.ly/1tZCaSt.