None for the road - let's stop drinking in the workplace

Beer and baseball have gone together since the days of Babe Ruth. But that tradition has come into question with the recent death of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock. He was killed April 29 when his vehicle plowed into a tow truck. Hancock's blood alcohol level was nearly double the legal limit at the time of the crash.

The Cardinals have banned alcohol in the clubhouse in the wake of Hancock's death, but is this just an empty measure? The team chose not to punish their manager, Tony LaRussa, last spring, after he was charged with DUI during spring training, sending the wrong message to its players.

Drinking at the workplace or even while on the job is a practice not limited to the baseball diamond. I've worked at a few places in the past where a few beers would come out for 'special occasions.' Looking at the numbers, I think even this practice should be stopped.

A 2006 study by the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) estimated that 15 percent of the U.S. workforce, or 19.2 million workers, had been to work under the influence at least once in a 12 month period. Of these, the RIA estimates that 2.1 million workers (1.7 percent of the workforce) worked under the influence of alcohol and 11.6 million workers (9.2 percent of the workforce) worked with a hangover.

The potential for accidents is simply too great when more than ten percent of your workforce isn't up to par. It is up to employers to set an example and ban drinking before or during the workday.

As North American Occupational Health and Safety week ends, let's all work harder to discourage drinking in the workplace along with drinking and driving – after all, for many people, the road is their workplace!

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