Drug and alcohol consumption high in mining and Ag sectors

by Kylie Field

Sep 06, 2017

Recent research is showing a disturbing trend towards alcohol and drug consumption before work for people in mining and agriculture with nearly 25% of miners admitting they are having a drink before going to work, while 10% of farm workers have admitted to routinely having a "breaky bong". 

Natasha Jagar from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation told ABC News it was a problem in many sectors, including construction and hospitality. 

"The mining industry has a work hard, play hard attitude so at the end of a hard day they like to have a cold beer and relax," Jagar said. 

"But it's about how their use of alcohol or drugs at night time after their shift can have a flow-on effect the next day." 

Jagar says workers were also avoiding drug tests by coming to work late or using the latest drugs that could not be picked up. 

"The testers are there at a certain time every day, and drug users know what time that is so they find ways around the drug testing," Jagar told the ABC. 

Health and safety organisation Coal Services conducts annual checks on workers' health and in the last financial year, they tested more than 14,000 workers and recorded 217 positive drug test results. 

Managing director of Coal Services Lucy Flemming said any number above zero was too many in a high-risk environment. 

"When you're working in a hazardous industry, do you want to be impaired or working with someone who may be drug impaired who may jeopardize your own health and safety?" 

Links between drug and alcohol use and souring rates of obesity and fatigue 

Dr Trent Watson from health consultancy Ethos said fatigue was a big problem for miners and drug use might be contributing to that. 

“76% of workers reported feeling fatigued once a fortnight while 90% were not reporting it at all. You get people saying 'I drank six beers last night and I'm getting up early to pee, I'm getting dry mouth … I'm getting eight hours of comatose sleep but I'm waking up feeling awful.' " 

He conceded there was a low safety incident rate, but thought people were riding their luck too often. 

"Subjectively we can assess our level of impairment sufficiently enough to make a safe decision, but we're not doing it," Watson said. 

He wants family, friends and colleagues to intervene when they see someone fatigued, like they do when they jump in the car to ensure everyone has a seatbelt on.

"We want spouses, family and friends to take that action, like they do when they're behind the wheel. 

"We want people in hazardous work places doing exactly the same."

The industry already has a problem due to long shift times and the prevalence of night shifts, which disrupt circadian rhythms. 

Meanwhile Ms Jagar told ABC News that alcohol was contributing to obesity and people needed to be aware of the amount of calories in their drinks. 

"There are the same amount of calories in two rum and cokes as there are in a Big Mac," she said. 

"Now you talk to any guy, they could easily down eight rum and cokes on a night out, but would they really have four Big Macs?"

recent study by the mining industry showed an alarming 83% of mine workers were obese.

 

Image sourced from Flickr cc: Fernanda Armijo 


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