by Oct 13, 2023Health and Safety, News

The Springboks played Tonga on Sunday, 1 October 2023 and the match started at 21h00 (South African time). There were, reportedly, higher than usual levels of absenteeism from South African workplaces on the following Monday morning. While absenteeism can severely impact on health and safety because it can reduce the number of team members performing tasks and decrease the level of supervision in the workplace, of more concern was that employees who had enjoyed the match a little too much, reported for duty on the Monday morning, with many employees “blowing positive” for alcohol.

All reputable studies indicate that alcohol (and other intoxicating substances) can impair a person’s judgment, and their ability to work safely, particularly around machinery and other complex infrastructure. For this reason, and in support of compliance with their health and safety responsibilities in terms of the occupational health and safety legislation (the Mine Health and Safety Act in the case of mines, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, in respect of other industries), employers typically implement a “zero tolerance” policy for alcohol and other intoxicating substances in the workplace, supported by stringent disciplinary codes and procedures. “Blowing positive” for alcohol inevitably leads to dismissal where a “zero tolerance” approach is adopted in a workplace.

With the Springbok’s quarter-final game against France in The Rugby World Cup coming up on Sunday, 15 October 2023, also starting at 21h00, and with the entire nation behind the Springboks, chances are good that employees may enjoy themselves a little too much on Sunday evening.

This poses a challenge for both employers and employees. Employers are required to take appropriate steps to provide a healthy and safe workplace, which includes implementation of “zero tolerance” policies in the workplace, while a separate duty and responsibility is placed on employees for their own health and safety and that of fellow employees and other persons who may be affected by their activities.

Employers and their key stakeholders in the workplace should urgently consider the potential impact on Monday morning, carry out a proper hazard identification and risk assessment, and put in place appropriate measures to address potential absenteeism, and the consequences of this including the composition of work teams and availability of supervisors.

In the case of employees, employees must think very carefully before reporting for duty on Monday morning and take into account the requirements of their employer’s drug and alcohol policy and the relevant disciplinary procedure.

A little too much on Sunday night could lead to dismissal.

Beech Veltman Incorporated wishes the Springboks all the best on Sunday night.