Workplace alcohol harm reduction

March 2018
Pidd, K., Roche, A., Cameron, J., Lee, N., Jenner, L., & Duraisingam, V. (2018). Workplace alcohol harm reduction intervention in Australia: Cluster non-randomised controlled trial. Drug and Alcohol Review. doi:10.1111/dar.12660.

Evidence of the effectiveness of workplace alcohol harm reduction strategies is limited and inconclusive due to these interventions:

  1. Often comprising generic programs (e.g., health/wellbeing, employee assistance) and do not specifically target alcohol-related harm
  2. Generally focusing on changing individual behaviour with little attention to contributory workplace factors.

To-date, few studies have also evaluated the effectiveness of workplace policies to reduce alcohol-related harm, and none have examined the structural/cultural factors influencing workplace AOD use.

NCETA researchers, in collaboration with staff from 360Edge (formerly LeeJenn Health Consultants) conducted a three year trial, using a quasi-experimental design, to evaluate an in-situ workplace alcohol harm reduction intervention. The study adopted a ‘whole-of-workplace’ approach. Key stakeholder interviews and policy development workshops were conducted to assist with the gap analysis, policy development and as a tool for leadership and frontline worker engagement.

While the trial did not produce any significant reduction in the main outcome measure (AUDIT-C), intervention effects were observed for secondary outcome measures i.e., employee awareness and policy awareness. In particular, the study found that at T2 (12 months post-intervention) and T3 (24 months post-intervention), the intervention group participants were significantly more likely than comparison participants to be aware of their workplace alcohol policy.

The finding about alcohol policy awareness is especially important because, based on NCETA’s previous work, workplace policy awareness is not only associated with employees’ alcohol consumption patterns but also with their propensity to seek help for alcohol-related problems. There is a strong possibility that the intervention’s effect on raising policy awareness may have been due to the comprehensive, co-design approach adopted by the researchers and the workplaces.

Despite the limitations of the results from the current study, they are nevertheless consistent with previous Australian and international research indicating that workplace interventions are more likely to be effective if tailored to meet the needs and resources of specific workplace settings.