Managing methamphetamine in the workplace

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Monday, 2 August, 2021 - 12:45
Policy & legislation
National News
Western Australia

WA’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) recently released a guide for employers to assist them if they suspect someone in the workplace may be using Methamphetamine (meth).

Methamphetamine (meth) is an illicit drug that stimulates the brain and central nervous system and there is increasing concern about methamphetamine use in Australia, and particularly in the workplace.

Short and long-term effects of meth can have serious consequences for the person who uses meth, their families, work colleagues and bystanders. Workers may use the drug at work or outside of the workplace.

At the workplace, affected people may be at risk of experiencing or causing harm due to effects on coordination, judgement, behaviour and concentration. Even when someone is not currently intoxicated, they may have crash or withdrawal effects that can negatively impact on workplace safety.

The guide said the initial effects of meth often last between 4 and 12 hours depending on how much of the drug has been consumed. It can take one to two days for the drug’s metabolites to leave the body entirely.

Workers in particular industries or who are exposed to stressful work and/or fatigue are more susceptible to the use of meth, other drugs and alcohol, and industries at higher risk include:

  • utilities (electrical, gas or other trades)
  • hospitality
  • agriculture, forestry and fishing
  • arts and recreation
  • manufacturing
  • miscellaneous industries including repair and maintenance, personal and other services.

Some industries have greater contact with members of the public who may use meth, for example, the health, policing and community services sectors.

The guide said workers affected by meth, alcohol or other drugs should not be at the workplace, as their cognitive and physical functioning can be impaired which creates a risk to their safety and the safety of others in the workplace.

However, determining whether someone is affected by alcohol and other drugs can be difficult.

Stigma also occurs when an individual or group of people don’t receive the same amount of respect as others.

To reduce stigma in the workplace related to drug use and encourage early help-seeking behaviour, a stigma reduction strategy that addresses the three components of stigma is necessary. The three components of stigma are knowledge, attitudes and behaviours.

1. Increase knowledge about alcohol and other drug use (including factors contributing to drug use and the subsequent effects).

2. Influence attitudes in the workplace by providing positive and supportive leadership that communicates which attitudes are acceptable and unacceptable in the workplace.

3. Establish and communicate what behaviour is acceptable in the workplace and what behaviour is unacceptable.