Injuries on the job: the effects of problem drinking

  • Problem drinking is well known to contribute to a number of accidents and personal injuries.
  • The association between problem drinking and workplace injuries is less well known.
  • One study found that heavy drinkers who reported more work-related injuries tended to have jobs that were dangerous and required a high-school education or less.
  • The role of heavy drinking and alcohol dependence in the causation of injury at work is still unclear.
It is well known that heavy drinking as well as alcohol dependence can contribute to a number of injuries through traffic accidents, fires, and falls. What is less known, but often assumed, is that problem drinking is also responsible for a large proportion of workplace injuries. This could be particularly relevant for safety-sensitive fields such as aircraft control, nuclear power, or medicine. A study in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research examines the relationship among heavy drinking, alcohol dependence, and injuries at work.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that alcohol has had a significant role in people's deaths from off-the-job injuries. A notable proportion of individuals - 31 percent of unintentional, non-traffic related injury deaths, 31 percent of homicides, and 22 percent of suicides - were found to be legally intoxicated at the time of their deaths. Furthermore, despite a decrease in the role of alcohol in fatal motor vehicle crashes during the last few years, 30.6 percent of all traffic fatalities are still alcohol-related (in the most recent data available). In contrast, very little is known about the association between problem drinking and workplace injuries. The few studies of blood alcohol in persons who have died from injury at work in the United States have shown that between two and 11 percent of workers were intoxicated at the time of injury.

In this study, researchers analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of

Contact: Mark A. Veazie, Dr.P.H.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

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