EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

EWCO CAR on Use of Alcohol/Drugs at the Workplace

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  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 03 May 2012



About
Country:
Czech Republic
Author:
Štěpánka Pfeiferová
Institution:

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

Although there are no exact records of occurrence of work under the influence of alcohol or another psychoactive substance, this problem is wide-spread in the Czech workplaces, especially in the construction, restaurants, medical care and transport sectors. Psychoactive substances have an impact on occurrence of job-related injuries, therefore any alcohol/drug consumption at work and during working hours is prohibited and upon the respective superior's order employees are obliged to undergo a test detecting presence of psychoactive substances. A confirmed abuse of psychoactive substances may result in cancellation of the employee's employment contract.

QUESTIONNAIRE

Block 1: Main sources of information dealing with the issue of alcohol/drug use at the workplace at national level and its relation with working conditions, etc.

1.1 Are there national statistical sources (surveys, administrative registers including company reports as surveys / reports from the Labour Inspectorate, Labour doctors, etc) that provide information on the issue of alcohol/drug use at the workplace in your country? If so, identify them and explain their characteristics and methodology. Please refer both to general population health surveys/sources or general alcohol/drug use surveys/sources as to working conditions or workplace specific surveys/sources

  • Name of the statistical source

  • Scope

  • Goals

  • Methodology

  • Periodicity

In the Czech Republic, there are no statistical data which would give an overall view regarding the topic of alcohol/drug abuse at work. In this respect the only source of information is in the statistics of job-related fatal injuries, which have been annually prepared since 2005 by the Occupational Safety Research Institute (Výzkumný ústav berpeènosti práce, VÚBP) on the basis of data from the National Labour Inspectorate (Státní úøad inspekce práce, SÚIP), the Traffic Police of the Czech Republic, and the Czech Mining Authority (Èeský báòský úøad, ÈBÚ (in Czech)). Investigation of fatal injuries at work includes an identification of the causes of the injury, which allows us to determine the number of fatal injuries caused by abuse of alcohol or other psychoactive substances.

Other data sources bring estimates on prevalence of abuse of psychoactive substances in the population; however, they do not enable us to map the topic of alcohol/drug abuse at work:

Table 1: Data sources on alcohol/drug abuse in the population

Research title

Institution

Type of information

Citizens' views on health and healthcare

National Institute of Public Health

Approximate number of high risk alcohol-endangered and alcohol dependant consumers

European Health Interview Survey in CR

Institute of Health Information and Statistics

Alcohol consumption in the population

Activity of outpatient departments of alcoholic and drug-addict care and psychiatric wards, providing treatment for patients abusing psychoactive substances

Institute of Health Information and Statistics

Number of treated psychoactive-substance abusers

Care for patients abusing psychoactive substances in psychiatric in-patient hospitals of the Czech Republic

Institute of Health Information and Statistics

Number of hospitalizations with a diagnosed disorder caused by alcohol or non-alcohol drug abuse

Source: Author on the basis of online information by the National Institute of Public Health (Státní zdravotní ústav, SZÚ) and Institute of Health Information and Statistics of the Czech Republic (Ústav zdravotnických informací a statistiky ČR, ÚZIS)

1.2. Are there any other sources of information (published after mid-2000s) that may provide valuable information on the issue (i.e. ad-hoc studies, sectoral studies, administrative reports, articles, published case studies, etc). If so, identify and describe them.

There are no other sources of information.

Block 2: Information on the extent of the use of alcohol and drugs at the workplace in your country, as well as the type of situations (sectors, occupations, working conditions, etc.) in which this use occurs, its consequences (production process, social relations at work) and the rationale behind it

2.1. Please provide the available data and information on the prevalence of drug/alcohol use at the workplace in your country, if possible differentiating data by:

  • Type of substance

  • Sectors => specific focus on the construction and transport sectors

  • Occupational profiles

  • Other relevant variables

There are no available data on the prevalence of alcohol/drug use at the workplace. Therefore, the answers are based mainly on opinions of experts from SÚIP, VÚBP and SZÚ.

By far the most frequently used psychoactive substance, the presence of which is identified at work, is alcohol. It is followed (however, in a markedly lower extent) by occurrence of cannabis-influenced workers.

With regard to job-related injuries, the alcohol/drug abuse at work is reported by experts of SÚIP mainly in the construction industry and in transport. A sizeable part of workers injured under the influence of alcohol is represented by foreign nationals working in the construction industry.

According to the findings from the research Citizens' views on health and healthcare, the leading occupations in terms of potential risk of alcohol abuse at work are physicians, drivers, especially those in the long-distance transport, construction workers, waiters, waitresses and bartenders, but also white-collar workers, such as managers.

2.2. Please provide data and information on the rationale and consequences of drug/alcohol use at work. Focus on construction, transport:

Reasons for consuming alcohol/drugs

  • Use of drugs related to certain working conditions (e.g. alcohol when working in cold / warm environments; stimulants when working at high rhythm, etc…)

  • Accessibility/availability

The survey Citizens' views on health and healthcare showed that typical risk factors adding to the developing an addiction include work in a three-shift system, stress and easily available alcohol. Bìlecký (2008) adds that in case of physicians, the causes of psychoactive substance abuse include, besides stress, a lack of sleep when continuously on duty, permanent social interaction and ingratitude of patients for the care provided for them. Key risk factors for long-distance drivers are high demands on their concentration, irregular life style or isolation from their families. Alcohol availability adds to the high levels of alcohol abuse by the personnel in the restaurant sector, especially by waiters and bartenders. Another factor adding to work under the influence of alcohol is superiors' tolerance of consumption of alcoholic beverages at meals.

Consequences of consuming alcohol/drugs

  • working conditions affected by drug use (risk increase, accidents, absenteeism, sick leave…):

  • Accidents and fatalities due to alcohol/drug use

  • Sick leaves attributed to alcohol/drugs, absenteeism

  • Assessment of costs

  • Use of alcohol/drugs negatively affecting other working conditions:

  • Uneven workload distribution…

  • Work organisation

  • working environment (deteriorated social relations at work, higher number of conflicts…)

The only data coming from the statistic of job-related fatal injuries imply that since 2006 the number of fatalities caused by alcohol abuse has been steadily accounting for almost 5% of the total number of job-related fatal injuries. These accidents are mostly related to a fall from an elevated place or traffic accidents. No job-related fatalities under the influence of drugs were detected (Mrkvièka 2010).

Block 3: Identify legislation and agreements at national level concerning alcohol/drugs use at the workplace, specifically those related to testing practices

3.1. Please identify and describe the main existing legislation and agreements concerning the prohibition/limitation of alcohol/drug use at work:

  • Is there any legislation or agreement specifically intended to prohibit or limit alcohol/drug use at work? Please describe:

  • Type of legislation / agreement (Government or parliament laws, agreements from social dialogue, from the Governments and social partners, from other organisations, etc.)

  • Contents, stipulations

  • Collectives affected

  • Is there any sectoral legislation or agreement with the same purpose? Please focus on the construction and transport sectors

Abuse of psychoactive substances at the workplace is regulated by the Labour Code (in Czech) (Law No. 262/2006, as amended) in the provisions of Article 106, paragraph 4 e), which prescribes an obligation for employees not to abuse alcoholic beverages or any other psychoactive substance at the employer's workplaces (also outside the working hours) and during the working hours also outside these workplaces (e.g. on a business trip or at the meal break), but it also prohibits entrance under their influence to the employer's workplaces. It is one of the main duties of an employee in terms of occupational health and safety and it corresponds to the duty of an employer to ensure safety and health protection at work. The provision means a zero tolerance limit for presence of psychoactive substances and the ban of their abuse also applies to the non-working hours if their influence may persist until the arrival to work. (Bìlecký 2008)

Nevertheless, the Labour Code stipulates exceptions for some groups of employees:

  • Employees working in unfavourable microclimatic conditions (e.g. in ironworks, glassworks or foundries) if they consume beer with a low content of alcohol. This exception, however, does not apply to celebrations or similar occasions.

  • Employees for whom the consumption of these beverages is part of performing their job tasks (sales representatives, diplomatic staff, etc.). Nevertheless, such consumption cannot be excessive and the exception does not apply e.g. to celebrations with work teams.

  • Employees for whom the alcohol consumption is connected with their job tasks (e.g. brewers or wine tasters). Here, however, the ban reduction applies to the performance of job tasks only. (Zrutský 2008)

There is no other sectoral legislation.

3.2. Specific focus on legislation / agreements regarding testing practices intended to control the use of alcohol/drugs at work. Please consider questions such us:

  • how are the tests regulated (agreements / legislation or are there guidelines)?

There is no specific legislation on workplace drug testing. The employee obligation to undergo a testing on whether he or she is under the influence of alcohol or other psychoactive substances is prescribed generally in Article 106 (in Czech), paragraph 4 i) of the Labour Code. These tests were incorporated in the labour-law relations primarily as a part of care for employees' safety and health, especially as a means preventing injuries, crashes and accidents or a potential interference with performance of job activities. (Bìlecký 2008)

  • what type/forms of tests – testing methods and for what type of substances?

When detecting whether the employee is under the influence of alcohol, the employer (via an H&S technician) is entitled to conduct only a breath test. However, he is not allowed to take a sample of a biological material (blood or urine) which can solely be done by a physician. Therefore, if the breath test is positive, the employee must be transported for the blood taking since it is only the blood sample analysis that the employer can use in further proceedings with the employee. Influence of other psychoactive substances is tested by a disposable test which identifies presence of marihuana, ecstasy, methamphetamine, heroine or cocaine through testing the employee's saliva or sweat. Also in this situation it is important still to take a sample of a biological material (blood, urine, saliva, hair or skin or mucosa smear) in the respective health care facility for the purpose of a laboratory analysis of the sample taken. Until the employee proves by the urine or blood analysis carried out by a physician that he or she is not under the influence of alcohol, the employer does not allow his working. Health care facilities are prescribed by law to cooperate with the employer including an obligation to inform him on the test results upon request. (Štefko 2006) This does not apply if the patient is tested on presence of alcohol or other psychoactive substances in connection with the health care provided for differential diagnostics.

  • who can ask for tests, on who's initiative are tests initiated? for what purpose/reasons?

A psychoactive substance test can be ordered by an authorized executive who has been entrusted by the employer in writing in an in-house regulation (e.g. instruction, guideline or work rules). In the transport sector where interest in the safety and health protection is enormous, there exist – besides an executive entrusted by the employer and occupational physician - bodies with regulatory empowerment authorized to give an order to undergo the respective testing, namely the Police of the Czech Republic (Policie Èeské republiky, PÈR), municipal police, Military Police (Vojenská policie), and the Prison Service of the Czech Republic (Vìzeòská služba ÈR). (Kalenská 1998)

  • is the consent of the person to be tested needed?

If the employee, without any serious grounds, refuses the testing, he or she breaches the obligation arising from legal regulations applicable to the job performed by the employee (cf. Act No. 200/1990 Coll., on misdemeanours, Article 30, paragraph 1 i) (in Czech)). The employer is entitled to banish from the workplace a person suspicious of abuse of psychoactive substances who refuses to be tested, while he or she is not entitled to any remuneration or other financial compensation for the time of absence. If the employee refuses the breath test several times (at least three times) without any serious grounds and is notified of a potential cancelation of the employment contract due to a breach of duty, he or she can be even given a notice in compliance with Article 82 g) of the Labour Code on the grounds of a continuous, less serious breach of occupational duties. If the employee gives serious reasons which prevent him or her from undergoing a breath test, the employer is entitled to ask the employee to undergo a medical examination. An express obligation to undergo an examination applies to the staff whose work under the influence of psychoactive substances endanger themselves or other persons, public order or property, and also the persons who are justifiably suspicious of having inflicted injury to another person in relation to abuse of an alcoholic beverage or another psychoactive substance. (Bukovjan, Šubrt 2011)

  • by whom are the tests undertaken? are tests limited to safety sensitive positions or specific sectors (transport, etc.) or are they overall?

The breath test is usually undertaken by a safety technician, while the blood sample analysis is subsequently undertaken by a physician or an authorized medical worker. (Fetter 2005) A regular testing of employees is usual for high-risk employee groups, such as drivers. In the other cases the test should be conducted every time there is a justified suspicion that the employee may be under the influence of alcohol or other psychoactive substances. (Jakubka 2005) Nevertheless, the employer is entitled to require the breath testing also without any suspicion that the employee is not able to perform his or her job.

  • what can be the consequences of positive results on the work contractual relation?

The detection of the presence of alcohol or other psychoactive substances in the blood of an employee at the workplace means a breach of duties arising from labour law regulations. In compliance with Article 52 g) (in Czech) of the Labour Code it constitutes a reason for the employer to dismiss the employee or as the case may be to terminate the employment contract immediately. In this situation the employee need not to be notified of a potential notice. It is understood that a duty is breached also when the employee did not arrive to work at the set time as a consequence of a detected indisposition after the consumption of alcoholic beverages. At the evaluation of a particular case it is mainly taken into consideration whether the employee in his or her action could endanger his or her own life or other people's lives, or caused any material damage to the employer, or if it was an isolated incident, or alcohol or drugs have been detected at the employee at work repeatedly. Also, if the employment was terminated by the employer on the grounds of a gross breach of duty arising from labour-law regulations, the dismissed employee is not eligible for an unemployment benefit. (Zrutský)

Describe changes, evolution development of regulation / agreements on testing, drawing the attention to the review in light of the improvement of the testing methods

Since the early1990s the possibility to order an psychoactive substance test has been gradually enlarged. A narrow link between the testing and high-risk branches was cancelled, so that at present it is possible to test employees almost in every field of activity. (Kalenská 1998)

Law No. 379/2005, on measures preventing damage caused by tobacco products, alcohol or other psychoactive substances and on amendment of the related laws provides improvement of the legal provisions contained in the Labour Code, which entitle the employer to conduct only a breath test the evidential force of which is dubious. The law has established conditions under which the employee is obliged to undergo an examination upon the employer's request to detect whether he or she is under the influence of alcohol or another psychoactive substance, including the biological material sample-taking. In particular, it applies to such activities at which the employees may harm themselves or other people, or public order or property.

Another change compared to the previous regulation is that if such a person refuses to undergo the examination, he or she is viewed as if being under the influence of alcohol or another psychoactive substance. In this respect the law strengthens the employers' position who are provided with a legal basis to carry out checks of employees' fitness to perform their work flawlessly.

Block 4: Identify and describe national prevention programmes to combat the use of alcohol/drugs at the workplace, especially those based on agreements and cooperation of the social partners:

  • Organisation(s) responsible for these programmes

  • Drivers and motivations. Objectives

  • Target groups (sectors, specific occupations…)

  • Content and activities developed (campaigns for alcohol/drug free workplaces, information to workers, training, professional counselling and personal assistance, reintegration programmes…)

  • Tools (seminars, brochures, toolkits, guidelines, polls, tests…)

  • Inter-relation with other (health) programmes. Participation of health professionals

  • Are the prevention programmes integrated in the general working conditions/OSH training programmes and management systems?

  • Are the prevention programmes based on joint assessment of the social partners and defined in an agreed policy for the enterprises? Role of work councils and H/S committees.

  • Performance and outcomes of the programmes

  • Changes overtime

  • Assessment of the programmes. Point of view of the social partners.

At the national level there are no preventive programmes focusing on elimination of alcohol and/or drug abuse at work. The national preventive programmes aim at school youth as a primary prevention measure. Therefore, prevention at work runs rather ad hoc (e.g. stress prevention in a hospital in which some alcohol influenced physicians have been detected). Experts, associations and non-profit organizations (e.g. specialists from the Dependence Treatment Ward of the Psychiatric Hospital in Bohnice (in Czech)) provide consulting and lectures on prevention of alcohol and drugs at work for the employers who show interest in this topic.

Commentary by the NC

NCs are requested to provide a very brief commentary on main obtained results

The topic of alcohol/drug abuse in the Czech Republic has not been mapped, since there are no statistic records of occurrence of psychoactive substance abuse at work, nor a qualitative study related to this topic. Nevertheless, estimates by the experts of SÚIP and SZÚ who keep records of job-related injuries imply that high-risk occupations in this regard include particularly construction workers, drivers, physicians, waiters and related occupations.

From the legislative point of view, a zero tolerance is applied to abuse of psychoactive substances at work in the Czech Republic and employers have rather extensive powers allowing a check of employees who are obliged to undergo a potential testing. A breach of this duty as well as a proved abuse of alcohol or drugs by an employee may result in the termination of employment.

In spite of the fact that the Labour Code bans consumption of psychoactive substances not only at workplaces, but also during the entire working hours, employers tolerate a consumption of a small volume of alcohol at work, which is a common social norm. Also on this ground collective partners do not feel a necessity to launch preventive programmes which would strive to eliminate consumption of psychoactive substances at work entirely. A repressive rather than preventive approach is taken to a voluminous consumption of psychoactive substances and in high-risk occupations.

References

  • Bělecký, M. 2008. ‘Nulová tolerance vůči alkoholu a drogám’ [Zero tolerance towards alcohol and drugs], in Bezpečnost a hygiena práce 6, Pp. 24-27.

  • Bukovjan, M., Šubrt, B. 2011. ‘Výkladová stanoviska AKV (IV) přijatá na zasedání Kolegia expertů AKV ve dnech 22. a 23. října 2010 ve Žďáru nad Sázavou (in Czech)’ [Explanatory views of the Association for the development of collective bargaining and industrial relations (AKV) adopted at the session of AKV Expert Collegium on 22 and 23 October 2010], in Práce a mzda 2, Pp. 52-60.

  • Fetter, R. W. 2005. ‘Zákaz požívání alkoholických nápojů podle zákoníku práce’ [Ban on consumption of alcoholic beverages in accordance with the Labour Code], in Personální a sociálně právní kartotéka 7, Pp. 4-6.

  • Interview with Petr Mrkvička, expert of Occupational Safety Research Institute.

  • Interview with Ondřej Varta, expert of National Labour Inspectorate.

  • Jakubka, J. 2005. ‘Osobní a osobnostní práva zaměstnanců a jejich ochrana’ [Personal and individual rights of employees and their protection], in Právo a zaměstnání 12, Pp. 2-16.

  • Kalenská, M. 1998. ‘K povinnosti zaměstnance podrobit se lékařskému vyšetření za účelem zjištění drog’ [On employees' duty to undergo a medical examination for drug testing], in Právo a zaměstnání 9, Pp. 2-5.

  • Mrkvička, P. 2010. Analýza smrtelné pracovní úrazovosti v ČR v roce 2009 [Analysis of job-related fatal injuries in the Czech Republic in 2009], Prague, VÚBP.

  • Štefko, M. 2006. ‘Přítomnost alkoholu nebo jiné návykové látky u zaměstnance’ [Presence of alcohol or another psychoactive substance at the employee], in Národní pojištění 4, Pp. 5-6.

  • Zrutský, J. 2008. ‘Zákaz požívání alkoholu a kouření na pracovišti’ [Ban on alcohol consumption and smoking at work], in Sondy 10, Pp. XI-XIV.

Štěpánka Pfeiferová, Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs (RILSA)

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