EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Final Questionnaire for EWCO CAR on Use of Alcohol/Drugs at the Workplace

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  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 07 May 2012

Liina Osila, Pirjo Turk

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.

The use of alcohol and drugs at the workplace has not been studied in Estonia and it is not widely discussed as a problem in Estonian society. Thus, most of the information provided in this report is based on interviews with relevant stakeholders in Estonia. Although there are laws that include regulations regarding the use of alcohol/drugs at workplace, there is no binding legislation on testing in the workplace. In addition there is also a lack of anticipating and rehabilitating measures to fight against the use of alcohol and drugs at the workplace and the aim of preventative measures is to raise the overall awareness of the dangers that come along with the alcohol and drug use and not specifically at the workplace.


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 Estonia, the issue of alcohol and drug use in the work place has not been widely discussed as a problem in the society. Thus there are no studies or surveys on the issue of alcohol/drug use at the workplace in Estonia. However, there are general population health surveys, which provide also information about alcohol and drug use in general.

Each even year since 1990, the National Institute for Health Development (TAI) has conducted a study on “Health Behaviour among Estonian Adult Population“. The main aim of the study is to find out persons health behaviour. The target group of the study is 5,000 Estonians aged from 16 to 64 and the random sample has been ordered from the Population Registry. The only characteristics provided in the study, which are related to the occupational status is the economic activity (employed, non-active nor unemployed).

The Labour Inspectorate (Tööinspektsioon) performs state supervision in the working environment over compliance with requirements of legislation regulating occupational health and safety. The statistical reports of work environment (including data on occupational accidents and illnesses etc) are provided quarterly. However, these sources of information do not enable analysis on alcohol/drug use at the workplace.

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.

Unfortunately there is very few information available on the issue of alcohol and drug use at the workplace.

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

Unfortunately such data is not collected and therefore it is not possible to bring out and elaborate the type of substances used or to bring out any other important variables. All contacted experts stated that the issue of drug and alcohol use at work place has not been in their agenda and there is not much information about the topic. Most experts gave their opinion based on their experience in their field since there are no specific studies, statistical data or sectoral reports. The representative of Estonian Association of Construction Entrepreneurs (EEEL) stated that they do not have information about the drug and alcohol use at workplace in their sector.

Both trade union representatives, the representatives of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Estonian Temperance Union(AVE) and Labour Inspectorate said that in case of intoxication they speak about the use of alcohol since there is no information about the use of drugs at workplace. However, for example the representative of Estonian Trade Union Confederation (EAKL) brought out that drugs may become a problem in the future. According to a study by (Tekkel et al. 2011) the overall drug usage among the employed working age population is quite high (especially among employed aged 16-24). (see also Table 1) Among unemployed men the usage of cannabis is the same in age groups 16-24 and 25-34. However the overall usage of cannabis is the lowest (6.5) among unemployed men and highest (11.9) among non-active men. As it can be seen from the table below, in some age groups the data has not been published due to unrepresentative sample (small number of respondents) and because the overall rate for cannabis usage is not provided and representative in many older age groups, the total rate is quite low.

Table 1. Use of cannabis by labour market status
Distribution (%) of respondents by use of cannabis in the past 12 months by gender, age and labour market status 


Male %

Female %

Total %

























































Source: Tekkel et al, 2011

Table 2. Use of alcohol by labour market status
Distribution (%) of respondents who consumed alcohol at least a few times a week by gender, age and labour market status 


Male %

Female %

Total %

























































Source: Tekkel et al, 2011

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

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…)

There is no information about whether the use of drugs is related to certain working conditions. Both, the representative of Labour Inspectorate and EAKL stated that they have heard from employers that in the summer employees working outdoors may drink beer or other soft beverages “because it is too warm”, but it has not been studied. According to the representative of Ministry of Social Affairs the usage of alcohol does not depend of how physically demanding the work is, but rather from the work environment and work culture. In case the environment at work is good and employees support each other, it is easier to avoid drinking at work.

With regard to the accessibility/availability, the representative of the AVE brought out that compared to our neighbour countries, alcohol is too cheap and easily attainable. For example, in 2009 there were 198 strong alcohol retail shops for the population of 100,000 individuals in Estonia, while the same indicator was 4.5 in Sweden and 6.5 in Finland. The alcohol excise duty in case of beer in 2009 was 4.92 in Estonia, while it was 17.07 in Sweden and 23.6 in Finland (Estonian Institute of Economic Research, 2010).

According to the statistics of Labour Inspectorate most of the accidents that have been caused in a state of intoxication since 2003 to 2011 have happened in manufacturing, construction and agriculture sector. Statistics of Labour Inspectorate also indicate that most fatal accidents in 2005-2011 happened in construction, manufacturing and in transportation and storage sector, unfortunately the data on fatal accidents is not differentiated by specific cause.

It is not possible to bring out the number of sick leaves that are related to alcohol/drug use, since the data is not differentiated by the cause of sick leaves. However according to a study by Reinap (2009) alcohol is the most costly health risk compared to other health risks (low activity, overweight, smoking, low consumption of vegetables). Compared to smoking, alcohol use was twice as costly. According to this study, the estimated economic burden caused by alcohol in 2006 formed 1.1% of Estonian GDP. According to this study, alcohol use causes direct costs which in 2006 made 6.6% of healthcare benefits paid by Estonian Health Insurance Fund.

It is difficult to comment on what negative affects the alcohol and drug use has on the working conditions since there is no available information and this topic has not been thoroughly studied.

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

According to the representative of AVE, Estonia is one of the few countries in European Union that does not have a clear and systematic alcohol policy. Estonia does not have alcohol strategy or any other basic documents, which could influence the use of alcohol and thereby also impact the use of alcohol/ drugs at work.

There are two laws in Estonia, which regulations include paragraphs that prohibit the use of alcohol/drugs at work and they apply to all workers and work environments. Firstly, the Occupational Health and Safety Act stipulates that employees are prohibited to work while under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or toxic substances or under the influence of psychotropic substances. The law also stipulates that the employer is obliged to suspend a worker from work if he or she is under the influence of alcohol, narcotics, and other toxic or psychotropic substances.

The Employment Contracts Act stipulates that the employer has the right for extraordinary cancellation of employment contract in case the employee has in spite of employers’ warning been at work in a state of intoxication.

The Public Service Act also obliges the employer to exclude an intoxicated official from office for the working day and to exclude from office an official who shows signs of the residual effect of intoxication or medicines, or who is under the influence of medicines if the job demands particular accuracy, involves control over a major source of danger or working in its immediate vicinity.

Alcohol Act regulates the employment of minors in jobs that are related to handling alcohol. The Act prohibits the employment of minors in case their work is related to the handling of alcohol except it is ensured that in the course of it minors do not come into contact with opened alcohol.

In addition, the transport sector has to emanate from the Traffic Act, which specifically prohibits driving while intoxicated. The law stipulates that the driver shall not be in a state of intoxication (which is in a state of health which is caused by the consumption of alcohol, narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances and which results in disturbed or changed bodily or mental functions and reactions). Although the law applies to all persons, the work in transport sector is directly involved. There is no specific legislation for those working tin the transport sector.

The employees that are at work in the state of intoxication and who work in the public sector can be punished under the regulations stipulated in the Employees Disciplinary Punishments Act. In court practices, intoxication is usually taken as serious violation of work discipline despite the level of intoxication or its consequences (AVE, 2007). However, the intoxication may not always be a serious violation of work discipline which means that the person is not fired after their first violation (AVE, 2007). Thus, the punishment should take account the seriousness of the violation, the circumstances and consequences and persons prior behaviour (AVE, 2007). Thus, sometimes being intoxicated at work could be seen as indecent behaviour not a serious violation of work discipline.

There is no sectoral legislation or agreements that regulate the use of alcohol/drugs at work place.

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)?

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

  • Who can ask for tests, on whose initiative are tests initiated? For what purpose/reasons?

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

  • Is pre-employment testing (before work contract signing) allowed? Can tests be included as a clause in work contracts?

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

  • When, at what moment can tests be undertaken?

  • What are the necessary established pre-conditions for proceeding for a test?

  • What are the conditions/rules/procedure under which tests can be undertaken? What is the role of the labour doctor and labour inspectorate in testing?

  • To whom will the results be communicated and under what reporting form/

  • Who has access to the results of the tests?

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

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

There is no binding legislation on testing in the workplace. While the Occupational Health and Safety Act obliges’ the employer to suspend a worker who is intoxicated, none of the laws allow the employer to test the worker for the use of any substances. Thus, the employer does not have any legal grounds to act upon. Although the Labour Inspectorate is not involved in testing, the representative of Labour Inspectorate brought out that the missing legislation regulating testing is probably the biggest problem for the employer in cases when the employee is in an intoxicated state. Labour Inspectorate usually suggests the employer to call to the police as the Police and Border Guard Act stipulates procedures for ascertaining the existence and degree of intoxication, and appeal. However, the representative of Labour Inspectorate stated that employers have said that the police do not always respond to these callouts.

As there are no binding laws or sectoral agreements for work place testing, it was also stated by trade unions (Estonian Transport and Road Workers Trade Union (ETTA), EAKL) and the Labour Inspectorate representative that enterprises may have their own workplace regulations that stipulate which action will be taken if an employee is intoxicated at work, and how and when doctors can determine the degree of intoxication. For example, in Tallinn Bus Company, health protection nurse has the right to determine intoxication and the bus driver has to show the examination protocol signed by the nurse in order to be able to work (AVE, 2007).

Employers can also rely on certain practice that have been developed from court rulings and labour dispute committee decisions that have handled alcohol/drug abuse at work place. Current practice is that in many cases the employer only has the witness testimonies, which in court is taken as equally hard evidence as any expertise results. Thus, in case the employee is not willing to go to expertise and the employer only have witness testimonies the employer can take witness testimonies and go to court. (AVE, 2007).

Communication and access to test results are regulated according to the Personal Data Protection Act which regulates the use and processing of personal data, as persons health is considered delicate personal data, its’ processing and use by a third person is firmly regulated in the Act.

The representative of the AVE brought out that besides the lack of legislation that regulates work place testing, there is also a lack of measures for anticipating the use of alcohol/drugs at work place and rehabilitative measures in case it has been detected that employee is at work in intoxicated state. Thus, even if it has been detected that a person has a problem, there are no guidelines what to do with the employee except the right to punish or fire the employee.

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.

In 2007 AVE issued a manual for the employers “How to anticipate drinking at workplace? The manual consisted of overview of the legislation related to alcohol use, advice on how to assess the alcohol problem and alcohol policy in enterprises, how to understand and motivate the employer with alcohol problem and also an overview of different experiences on implementing prevention. According to the chairman of AVE, Lauri Beekmann, the manual was distributed to various employers, but because of the lack of resources it was not possible to conduct introductory seminaries for the employers. Thus there has not been ex-post assessment of the impact of the manual.

Likewise, there are very few statistical resources and surveys on the usage of alcohol and drugs at the workplace, the focus on different prevention programs in regard to alcohol and drug usage at the work place, is very mild. However TAI has conducted general alcohol and drug prevention campaigns. In March 2006, a campaign “Stay clean” was launched, the aim of it was to raise awareness among teenagers of the different dangers that come along with drug usage. In November 2010, a campaign “Terviseks?” “Cheers?” was launched that aimed to draw attention to the health problems which may occur also with moderate usage of alcohol. In autumn 2010, another campaign called “Palju Sina jood?” “How much do you drink?” was launched by TAI. The objective of the campaign was to make people assess their consumption of alcohol and provide public discussion on the issues of decreasing alcohol usage.

The representative of ETTA stated that the Union had an action week every autumn and in 2009 the action week aimed at preventing alcohol usage. Along and after the campaign the testing practices were implemented among the transport companies (mainly the bus-drivers).

Commentary by the NC

Compared to other Northern countries, alcohol in Estonia is cheaper and more easily attainable. At the same time Estonia does not have a clear and systematic alcohol policy. The use of alcohol/drugs at workplace has not been studied and despite some laws that regulate alcohol/drug use at workplace, there are no binding testing measures for employers to use. It also occurred that employers lack guidelines of how to prevent or help employees with alcohol/drug problems and that preventative measures focus on raising overall awareness of damages the use of alcohol/drug could cause. Further research of the use of alcohol/drugs at workplace is needed. However, currently the topic is not widely discussed as a problem in Estonian society and work life.

Liina Osila, Pirjo Turk, PRAXIS, Center for Policy Studies


  • Estonian Institute of Economic Research (2010). Alcohol market, consumption and harms in Estonia. Yearbook 2010.

  • Estonian Temperance Union (AVE) (2007), “How to anticipate drinking at work place”, Handbook, 2007.

  • Reinap, M (2009). The Economic Burden of the Main Behavioural Health Risks in Estonia, Tallinn University of Technology

  • Tekkel, M, Veideman (2011), Health Behaviour among Estonian Adult Education in 2010, National Institute for Health Development (2010)

People consulted for this report:

  1. Estonian Trade Union Confederation, EAKL, Chairman Harri Taliga

  2. Estonian Transport and Road Workers Trade Union, ETTA, Info secretary Jaan-Hendrik Toomel

  3. Estonian Temperance Union (AVE), Chairman Lauri Beekmann

  4. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Public Health Department, Chief Specialist Triinu Täht

  5. The Labour Inspectorate, Director of the department of work environment, Mr Rein Reisberg

  6. Estonian Association of Construction Entrepreneurs, EEEL, Legal Advisor, Mrs Helje Johansoo

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