As a business owner or manager, it’s crucial to ensure that your workplace is safe for everyone. One of the biggest concerns that you may face is an intoxicated employee. Alcohol and drugs can impair an individual’s judgment, decision-making abilities, and motor skills, which can increase the risk of accidents, mistakes, and other serious incidents in the workplace. This blog aims to provide you with information on how to detect if an employee is intoxicated, how to manage their behavior, and what to do if they are indeed under the influence.

An Alcohol & Drug-Free Workplace: How To Detect The Physical Signs Of Intoxication In An Employee

To keep your employees safe and promote an alcohol & drug-free workplace, It’s essential to know how to recognize the physical signs of intoxication. Some of the most common indicators include the following:

  • Slurred, loud, or rambling speech
  • Bloodshot, glassy, or watery eyes
  • Staggering gait or difficulty walking in a straight line
  • Inability to focus on tasks, confusion or disorientation
  • Aggresive or belligerent behavior
  • Swaying, staggering, or stumbling
  • The odor of alcohol, marijuana, or chemicals

Keep in mind that these symptoms may be different depending on the substance that the employee has consumed. It’s also worth noting that an employee may try to hide their intoxication, so you should approach this issue with sensitivity and discretion.

Strategies For Managing Aggressive Behavior In A Suspected Intoxicated Employee

Using drugs and alcohol can cause paranoid or irrational thoughts, irritability, mood swings, and erratic behavior. When a person is intoxicated or experiencing early signs of withdrawal, they may become a danger to themselves or others. It’s crucial to have a plan in place to de-escalate the situation and ensure everyone’s safety. If an employee becomes violent or aggressive, here are some steps to take:

  • Try to calm your employee by speaking to them in a calm, clear, and slow voice. 
  • Use an open body stance (arms open, palms up, head lowered).
  • Give the employee physical distance to minimize feelings of confinement.
  • If possible, remove furniture or other items from the space that the person might use aggressively.
  • Give the employee time to think and respond
  • Call upon security personnel 
  • If at any time the behavior intensifies, call the police for help (000) and remove yourself from the situation

While the suggestions listed above can be used as guidelines, be sure to follow your workplace policy and protocol in the event of an intoxicated employee. 

Employee intoxicated in a drug-free workplace

What To Do If An Employee Appears To Be Overly Sleepy Or Lethargic

If an employee seems excessively sleepy, drowsy, or lethargic, it could be a sign of alcohol or drug use. This behavior can put themselves and others in danger, especially if they need to operate heavy machinery or perform tasks that require a high level of concentration. You can ask the employee if they are feeling unwell or if there is anything that you can do to assist them. If you suspect that they are under the influence, you can urge them to seek medical attention or offer them a safe ride home.

Tips For Monitoring Staff Members Who Have Access To Potentially Dangerous Equipment Or Materials While Under The Influence

Some employees may have access to hazardous materials, machinery, or tools that could cause significant harm if used while under the influence. It’s critical to ensure that these employees are not intoxicated while on duty by implementing strict monitoring and testing protocols. You can also train your colleagues to identify signs of intoxication and report any suspicions immediately.

It’s essential to take employee intoxication seriously and take steps to prevent it from occurring in the workplace. By recognizing the physical signs of intoxication, managing aggressive behavior, having a drug and alcohol policy, and monitoring staff members who have access to potentially dangerous equipment, you can create a safer workplace for everyone. Remember, intoxication at work not only puts employees at risk but also can cause damage to your business’s reputation, finances, and success.

The Importance Of Implementing A Drug And Alcohol Policy In The Workplace

To minimize the risks associated with employee intoxication, it’s crucial to have a clear and concise drug and alcohol policy in place. This policy should include information on prohibited substances, testing procedures, consequences for violating the policy, and resources for employees who need help with substance abuse problems. By having such a policy, you can establish expectations and guidelines for your employees, reduce liability, and create an alcohol & drug-free workplace for your employees. 

How Dirigo RMS Can Help You Ensure A Drug And Alcohol-Free Workplace

While an employee’s right to use certain drugs may be protected, that does not include a right to use at work or be impaired on the job. Drug impairment endangers safety and productivity. Can your managers recognize the difference between legal use and illegal impairment? Do your policies accurately reflect the distinction? There are many common misperceptions about drug abuse in the workplace: Can a worker be legally impaired on their own prescription drug? Does Marijuana dangerously affect physical or mental processes?

Our Alcohol, Drug, and Cannabis Impairment In The Workplace Training discusses these questions and suggests important considerations for employers. This training is designed with Maine’s medical and recreational cannabis laws in mind, as well as the Reasonable Suspicion requirements of 49 CFR 382.603 for the drug-free workplace and safety-sensitive positions.


This Course Focuses On:

  • 1-hour overview of alcohol impairment, including signs and symptoms of abuse
  • 1-hour overview of drug impairment, including signs and symptoms of abuse
  • An overview of current alcohol, drug, and cannabis use trends in Maine
  • Strategies that can be done in reaction to perceived impairment
  • Suggestions on what (and how) impairment should be documented
  • Suggestions to keep the workplace safe without risking violations of employment laws
  • A review of several real-life scenarios and effective responses

At Dirigo Risk Management Solutions, we are committed to helping businesses and organizations identify and mitigate risks, ensuring the safety and security of their employees, customers, and assets. Contact us today to learn more about our training programs.