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Workplace Alcohol Policy | Essential Safety Guidance for Employers

Date 3 Dec, 2021 |
By: Angela Laycock

alcohol policyChristmas is a time when most of us eat and drink a little more than we usually would. When we are having a good time, it can be easy to stay out later than planned. We might drink more alcohol than usual, not thinking about the consequences if you have to drive or go into work the next morning. With this in mind it’s important that employers have an effective workplace alcohol policy, especially when workers are expected to drive or operate their machinery as part of their job.

Workplace Alcohol Policy | Are you safe to drive?

Although we all know the risks of driving under the influence of alcohol, many underestimate the amount of time it takes for alcohol to pass through the body. Even if you feel OK to drive the next day, you can still be over the drink drive limit. In the UK, the Charity ‘Brake’ report that every year, more than 200 people die in a drink-drive related crash.

Considering the Effects of Alcohol

alcohol policyAlcohol can seriously affect a person’s judgement and abilities:

  • The brain takes longer to receive messages from the eyes.
  • Processing information becomes more difficult.
  • Slower reaction times.

Alcohol can affect your vision, your ability to concentrate and make you feel drowsy, meaning you are not as alert and will have less control over your car compared to if you were alcohol free. Even small amounts of alcohol can affect your ability to drive or work with machinery.

For these reasons, in the UK there are strict alcohol limits for drivers. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland it is the following:

  • “80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood (the ‘blood limit’)
  • 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath (the ‘breath limit’)
  • 107 milligrams per 100 millilitres of urine (the ‘urine limit’)

In Scotland it is the following:

    • “50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood (the ‘blood limit’)
    • 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath (the ‘breath limit’)
    • 67 milligrams per 100 millilitres of urine (the ‘urine limit’)

The concentration of alcohol in the blood depends on various factors, gender, weight, age, fat/muscle content, metabolism, your stress levels, how much food you have eaten before drinking and medication that individual is on. Therefore, there is no direct way to tell how much alcohol will put you over the limit.

Those caught drink driving, face a driving ban of at least 12 months, an unlimited fine and a potential six months prison sentence. Those caught twice in 10 years face a minimum three year ban. Those who cause death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink may face 14 years imprisonment.

Those who cause death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink may face 14 years imprisonment, as well an unlimited fine, a two-year driving ban and an extended driving test before they are permitted to drive again.

Drinkaware Advice

    • Opt for lower strength drinks: 4% ABV or lower beer, switching pints for half pints or opting for single spirit measures rather than doubles.
    • Alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks or water.
    • Stop drinking alcohol well before the end of the night so your body has time to process the alcohol before the following morning.
    • The length of time that alcohol leaves your system can vary depending on a number of a factors. To illustrate this, tiredness can have an impact; when you are tired the alcohol processes more slowly through your system taking longer to leave. Furthermore, men process alcohol much faster than women.
  • Get an Effective Alcohol Policy in Place

    What if employees are required to work the day after a Christmas get together?

    To begin with, a works Christmas get together is still considered as work. Take this opportunity to remind employees about the effects of drink driving especially the next day. Ensure you have instructed all employees who are required to work the day after a Christmas get together about the company alcohol policy and remind them that if they come into work still suffering the effects of alcohol then they could face disciplinary action. For example, someone who is working on machinery should not be working under the influence of alcohol or equally if someone drives for the business they should not be driving.

    Employers have a duty of care as far is reasonably practicable to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees whilst they are at work. If an employer knowingly allows a member of staff who is under the influence of alcohol to work, they could be prosecuted.

    If you require help and guidance to produce an effective workplace alcohol policy or other safety policies for your business, get in touch with our Wirehouse Health and Safety Consultants today.

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