10 December 2008
Christmas Cheer Can Become A Workplace Hazard
Christmas celebrations give workers a chance to have some fun at the end of a busy year, but suffering through ‘the day
after the night before’ can create a workplace hazard.
The effects of overdoing alcohol at Christmas functions can impair a worker’s ability to do their jobs properly and
safely, which puts them at risk of injuring themselves or their co-workers.
``We estimate about a quarter of all injury claims to ACC are alcohol-related,’’ said ACC’s General Manager, Injury
Prevention, Katie Sadleir. ``Often the injuries don’t happen when the person is intoxicated, but the next day when
they’re hungover or fatigued. They may not be able to function fully or make good decisions, and that makes them a
danger at work and on the roads.
Last year over 19,000 people suffered a moderate to serious injury during their Christmas holidays. It’s the worst
possible end or beginning to a year!
Employers have a legal responsibility to manage workplace hazards and an alcohol-impaired worker is a hazard. Recently
ACC, along with the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC) and the New Zealand Drug Foundation, released a
booklet to help employers deal with this issue.
The ‘Alcohol and other Drugs in the Workplace – Employers Guide’ suggests ways to develop a robust workplace alcohol and
drug programme in consultation with employees and their representatives. The booklet’s focus is on prevention,
education, counselling and rehabilitation.
``Of course there’s a difference between how to deal with a worker who has an on-going problem with alcohol and someone
who’s just overdone the Christmas cheer. But the bottom line is that both workers are an injury risk,’’ Ms Sadleir said.
``And while employers can’t control what their employees do outside of work hours, they can control how they behave at
work. They can also ensure workers don’t overdo it at their own work functions. Largely this comes down to being a
responsible host; providing non-alcoholic choices, filling and healthy food, and encouraging guests not to drink too
``With almost 48% of New Zealand’s full-time workers classified as ‘binge drinkers’, alcohol will very likely be
something all employers have to deal with at some time. It is certainly an issue to be aware of during the festive
season,’’ she said.
The ‘Alcohol and other Drugs in the Workplace – Employers Guide’ is a free resource available from ACC. For a copy
please call 0800 844 657 quoting reference number ACC4460. A PDF of the guide can also be downloaded from