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Drugs & Alcohol

Processes, scripts and scenarios to handle typical issues in the workplace.

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Sam has recently turned 18 and has been working for you for the past 18 months.  Sam has always been a consistent worker and keen to learn. He has arrived at work today smelling of alcohol and noticeably a little disorientated.


The first thing is to ensure that Sam does not put himself or anyone else in danger. Ensure he is not near equipment or likely to drive any vehicles or machinery. Ask him politely to come and see you.

  • It is critical that if you are concerned for your employee’s safety you remove them from any harm and talk to them as soon as possible.
  • Ask your employee to have a chat.
  • Ensure that the conversation is done in private and not in full view of other employees.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions, there may be something else going on, ensure you listen before speaking.
  • Have a glass of water available on the table.


Ask Sam if he is feeling okay today. Tell him the reason you ask is that you have noticed he seems a little disorientated. Sam says no he is fine and just a little tired. It is now time to ask Sam if he has had any alcohol today. You do not accuse Sam nor say “I smell alcohol”. Allow Sam to respond.

  • Start the conversation slowly and with clarity. E.g. “How are you feeling today?” Be clear. E.g “I have asked to see you as I am a little worried. You seem disoriented as you stumbled earlier and I am worried about your safety.”
  • Watch for other non-verbal signs such as shaking, poor eye contact, anything that may provide clarity to the situation.
  • Be mindful of not getting into an argument. Remain calm and clear in your communication.


Based on your observations and Sam’s response, what is the best course of action? Sam told you he had not had any alcohol today nor taken any drugs bu,t did have a party last night and might be a bit disorientated and not functioning at 100%.  You then ask him if he feels confident that he can perform the duties that he is employed to do in his current state. If the organisation has a Drugs and Alcohol Policy refer to that. Depending on the work environment you could ask Sam to submit to a drug and alcohol test. Sam says he thinks it might be best if he goes home.

  • Reassure your employee that we all make errors in judgments and that it’s ok, but be clear with them that the behavior must not occur again.


You agree and ask Sam how he is going to get home? You do not let Sam drive home if you believe he is intoxicated or still under the influence of drugs.  The company may drive him home, allow him to go to the lunchroom to sober up before he drives or he can get a taxi/uber. It is best practice to ask Sam to call you when he is safely home.

  • If your employee has agreed that they would like to go home, ensure they get home safely. If it is not wise to drive themself. Offer a taxi/uber, organise someone to drive them or determine whether someone can collect them.
  • Agree with your employee about what you will tell their workmates and ask that once they get home they call or text to let you know they have arrived safely.
  • Agree that when they come to work tomorrow, they let you know they’re ok.
  • Be clear that today will be a sick day/annual leave or whatever is appropriate and agreed upon.
  • Thank your employee for their honesty and remind them that it might be a good idea not to party the night before work as it puts themselves and potentially others in danger.


Check in with Sam when he returns to work and ensure that he is ok and fully understands the action taken and that it is against policy to attend work intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Let him know that in the future he is not to come to work as he did as it is dangerous for him and his colleagues. Document the conversation for future reference.

  • Document the conversation for future reference.

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