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Company backs calls for work booze tests.

Byline: Helen Rae Health Reporter helen.rae@ncjmedia.co.uk

ANORTH East-based firm which developed drug and alcohol tests has welcomed a report that recommends their use for workers.

Staff should take a standardised test which identifies whether or not they are "risky" drinkers, according to the report published on the British Medical Journal's website, bmj.com.

If problems were identified, bosses could provide advice to help prevent harmful drinking at an earlier stage, Don Shenker, director and founder of the Alcohol Health Network, said.

Mr Shenker added that introducing such a measure could "prevent alcohol-related harm and sickness costs". Last night County-Durham based firm CSI, which delivers a range of drugs and alcohol tests, backed Mr Shenker's calls.

Trevor Hall CSI managing director and executive chairman said: "CSI currently provides the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification test to employers which provides feedback to individual employees on their drinking habits, and the employer gets an anonymised analysis of the overall results.

"The good news about the situation in the company can then be quantified and publicised. For example, it may well be that 90% plus of staff drink within the guidelines recommended by the Government's Chief Medical Officer, and it is good for a company and its workforce to know that. We often find people over-estimate the extent of problems in the workplace - it is good to establish the real facts."

Pre-emptive action, such as screening questionnaires and advice for staff, could help employers reduce harm and increase productivity among workers who drink too much, said Mr Shenker.

He wrote: "Offering staff confidential use of the alcohol use disorders identi-fication test and brief advice as a selfawareness initiative at work, whether through face-to-face interactions or leaflets, may well help prevent problems with alcohol at an earlier stage. "In this way, staff, who may be concerned about their drinking or whose level of drinking is not yet apparent to them, can assess the risks their drinking poses to their health and take appropriate action. Reducing hazardous drinking also reduces the risk of dependent drinking occurring."

He added: "Employers need also to be convinced of the business case for prevention rather than cure - that is, that it is ultimately more cost effective to prevent and reduce harmful drinking in the general working population, compared with the costs of managing dependent drinking among a minority of staff."

Statistics by the Institute of Alcohol Studies showed that one quarter of the UK workforce, about seven million people, drink at hazardous levels.

While Home Office statistics showed that hazardous drinking causes 40% of workplace accidents, results in 17m lost work days a year, and costs the UK economy an annual PS7.3bn.

Mr Hall added: "There are many positive benefits to employee alcohol testing. The tests can support actions to resolve issues identified, resulting in assistance for employees and any interventions can be applied effectively. Employees with alcohol issues who are helped by programmes supported by appropriate testing have a great opportunity to resolve those issues permanently. The audit can then be repeated after a period and the changes between the two surveys provide a measure of the return that the company has seen on its efforts and investment, highlighting staff improvements."

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 9, 2013
Words:546
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