EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Greece: Use of Alcohol/Drugs at the Workplace

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  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Work-related health outcomes,
  • Published on: 03 May 2012



About
Country:
Greece
Author:
Sofia Lampousaki
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.

The quantitative and qualitative data found on the use of alcohol or drugs at the workplace are very limited. According to the shared assumption of the occupational doctors interviewed, "there is nothing indicating the existence of a problem". The legislative framework about occupational health and safety does not specifically address the intake or use of drugs or alcohol. For reasons of protection of personal data and privacy, tests designed to specifically detect use of drugs or alcohol are not permitted; as a result, the tests conducted can only indirectly lead to conclusions.

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

No. Neither the Greek Labour Inspectorate (SEPE), nor the Social Security Institute (ΙΚΑ-ETAM) have any relevant information. The aforementioned bodies, which are responsible for inspecting working conditions and registering work accidents, do not keep relevant records. More specifically, SEPE and IKA keep records on the number of work accidents caused by “fall of person from a height to a lower level”, “falling of person on the same level”, “slipping, collapse and being struck by falling objects”, “collision with immobile objects and falling against or being struck by moving objects”, “trapping, being crushed – inside or between objects”, “physical strain or over-exertion”, “exposure to or contact with electric current”, “exposure to or contact with hazardous substances or radiation” and “other types of injury not oncluded in this list”, but there is no recording of work accidents under alcohol/drug influence.

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 is no sufficient information. Only the Annual Status Report on the Drugs and Alcohol Use Problem in Greece 2010 was found, drafted by the National Center for Documentation and Information on Drugs (EKTEPN), which contains some information on the employment status of persons who resorted to treatment centers.

In addition, following telephone communication with a large transportation sector company, we were informed that a survey is currently being conducted on the use of alcohol and drugs by employees, via a study of their medical history. The survey has not been completed yet but, according to the verbal communication we had, "there are no indications so far on the use of drugs or alcohol in the workplace". We were asked not to provide more information on the survey, because it is only for internal use, because of the sensitive data involved. The same answer, that there are no indications on use of drugs or alcohol in the workplace, did we get from employers we interviewed in the transportation, construction and electricity sectors.

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

No data was found on the use of drugs/alcohol in the workplace. Some information regarding the characteristics of drug and alcohol users that resorted to treatment centers has been found. In particular, according to EKTEPN’s Annual Status Report on the Drugs and Alcohol Use Problem in Greece 2010:

Regarding the characteristics of drug users, the report states that the majority of the people who sought treatment in a treatment center in 2009 were unemployed (61.3%), almost 1in 4 (22.3%) had a steady job and 1 in 10 (9.9%) had casual employment. Compared to the applications following previous treatment, in 2009, the applications for a first treatment showed a significantly lower percentage of persons reported as unemployed (53.7%) and higher percentages of persons with fixed employment (25.9%) and pupils, students or financially inactive persons (9.4%). Between 2002 and 2009, the percentage of persons with fixed employment grew marginally (from 19.2% in 2002 to 22.3% in 2009).

With respect to the characteristics of alcohol users, the report states that regarding their distribution in relation to their status of employment in 2009, almost half the people who sought treatment (52.2%) were employed. On the other hand, a remarkable percentage of people were unemployed (33%). Moreover, according to the Report, regarding the employment status arising from the total number of deaths caused by drug use in 2009, 69.8% of the cases related to unemployed persons, 14.3% were "others", 7.9% were employees in the private sector, 4.8% were skilled workmen, blue-collar workers, building construction labourers, 1,6% were seafarers and 1.6% were public servants.

Also, a new program called “European Workplace Alcohol - EWA” has been started on January 2011 with the aim to present case studies of workplaces that are examples of good practices for the implementation of prevention of alcohol use in the workplace, to conduct pilot interventions in workplaces during a year, to develop a toolkit which will include practical guidance on safe use of alcohol and guidelines for implementing interventions on alcohol involving employers, workers and managers and to conduct workshop in Greece organizing a European conference for the release of the toolkit and the results of program. The results of this program are not published yet. Given the absence of data, we resorted to interviews with management representatives, trade unionists and occupational doctors in the transportation, building construction and energy sectors. They state that there appears to be no indication for the existence of a drug and alcohol use problem in the workplace. However, there is a case where the problem of the use of drugs and alcohol has been recognised and that is the case of mining and quarrying sector, where Regulation No.12050/2223 of 2011 "On mining and quarrying operations" includes two sections clearly stating that "The possession or use of drugs and alcohol is strictly forbidden in the workplace”. Also, there is the impression that there is a great deal of unwillingness on the side of the people interviewed to recognise or talk about the real extent of the problem of drugs and alcohol in the workplace, because it is considered to be a taboo matter.

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…)

No relevant surveys were found.

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

There is no relevant legislative framework, except the general provisions of Law 3850/2010 on the "Ratification of the Code of Laws on the Health and Safety of Workers" (see subsection 3.2). This Code does not include any special provisions regarding the procedure for monitoring the use of drugs and alcohol neither during the recruitment process nor thereafter. Regulation No.12050/2223 of 2011 "On mining and quarrying operations" constitutes an exception, as it includes two sections clearly stating that "The possession or use of drugs and alcohol is strictly forbidden in the workplace Other regulations and decisions regarding the driver or heavy equipment operator professions require that candidates, prior to the technical examination and issuance of the relevant licenses, produce amongst others, a psychiatric evaluation assessing the possibility of drugs or alcohol use. In addition, in many cases, the submission of a criminal record prior to recruitment – definitely in the public and broader public sector and for public utility corporations – is a prerequisite since it shows whether the candidate has been convicted for any offence related to substance use.

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 who's 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?

Regarding the prevention or tackling of the use of drugs or alcohol in the workplace, no specific legislative provision exists. The general provisions of the labour legislation apply. In particular, according to Law 3850/2010 on the "Ratification of the Code of Laws on the Health and Safety of Workers":

The occupational doctor conducts a medical check on employees, depending on their post, following their recruitment or change of post, as well as a periodic medical check as the labour inspector deems appropriate. The occupational doctor ensures that medical examinations are conducted and that working environment factors are measured under the applying provisions. He/she assesses the suitability of employees for a particular post and evaluates and registers the results of the examinations, issues a certificate relating to the aforementioned assessments and discloses this to the employer. The content of the certificate must ensure medical confidentiality in favour of the employee and may be checked by the health inspectors of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in order to safeguard both the employer and the employee.

The occupational doctor supervises the implementation of the measures for the protection of the workers’ health and accident prevention. For this purpose a) he/she inspects labour posts regularly and reports any omission; he/she proposes measures to tackle omissions and supervises their implementation, b) he/she explains the necessity of the proper use of individual protection measures, c) investigates the causes of work-related diseases, analyses and assesses the results of the investigations and proposes measures to prevent such diseases, d) supervises the workers’ compliance with the health and safety regulations, informs workers on any hazards generated by their work, as well as on relevant prevention methods, e) provides emergency treatment in case of accident or sudden illness. He/she executes employee vaccination programs at the order of the competent Directorate of Health of the Prefecture where the company has its registered office.

The occupational doctor must be informed by employers and employees on any factor affecting health in the workplace.

The company’s occupational doctor keeps a relevant medical file for every employee. Moreover, a personal work-related hazards booklet is established and included in the medical file; this booklet states the results of the medical and laboratory tests, every time the employee is submitted to these. The health inspectors of the competent Labour Inspectorate, the doctors of the insurance body where the employee is registered and the employee himself may be informed on the content of the file and the employee’s personal booklet. If the employment relationship is terminated, the booklet is handed over to the employee it relates to.

The employee’s personal work-related hazards booklet may not contain or elaborate on any information or data other than the results of the medical and laboratory tests to which he/she has been submitted, according to the provision of section 9. In addition, any medical data may be collected by the employee himself for elaboration, only if this is absolutely necessary: a) in order to assess his/her suitability for a specific post or job, b) so that the employer can fulfill their obligations regarding the employees’ health and safety and c) in order to establish the employee’s rights and the relevant payment of social contributions.

The occupational doctor is obliged to observe medical and corporate confidentiality.

Those who record, collect or process information or data in violation of paragraph 10 are disciplined under the administrative and penal sanctions of the provisions of articles 21 and 22 of Law 2472/1997 on the “Protection of the individual from the processing of personal data” (Government Gazette 50/Α') respectively. In case of financial damage or moral harm, article 23 of Act 2472/1997 applies.

Based on these general provisions, the occupational doctor checks the employees' health condition periodically. However, because of the legislation on the protection of privacy and sensitive personal data, the occupational doctor may not perform examinations (blood test, alcohol test, drug test) to specifically establish whether an employee has used drugs or alcohol. The general tests he may request can only indirectly lead to relevant conclusions. In this case, in practice, the occupational doctor informs the management, which can transfer the employee to a lower risk post or a position with less frequent contact with the public or may even dismiss the employee.

In addition, it should be noted that in many cases, the submission of a criminal record prior to recruitment – definitely in the public and broader public sector and for public utility corporations – is a prerequisite since it shows whether the candidate has been convicted for any offence related to substance use.

In addition, it should be noted that especially over the last four years, within the framework of road traffic controls, the traffic police have been conducting preventive checks in school buses, while they also perform alcohol tests on professional drivers.

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

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.

There is no information programs or other programs designed to prevent or tackle the problem of drug or alcohol use designed especially for employees. The programs currently being conducted are addressed either to pupils/ young people or to users. As already mentioned above ,a new program called “European Workplace Alcohol - EWA” has been started on January 2011 with the aim to present case studies of workplaces that are examples of good practices for the implementation of prevention of alcohol use in the workplace, to conduct pilot interventions in workplaces during a year, to develop a toolkit which will include practical guidance on safe use of alcohol and guidelines for implementing interventions on alcohol involving employers, workers and managers and to conduct workshop in Greece organizing a European conference for the release of the toolkit and the results of program. The results of this program are not published yet.

Commentary by the NC

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

The quantitative and qualitative data found are very limited. To answer the questionnaire, we resorted mainly to interviews with management representatives, trade unionists and occupational doctors in the transportation, building construction and energy sectors. The shared assumption is that "there is nothing indicating the existence of a problem". However, it seems that the subject of alcohol or drugs might be a taboo. The legislative framework about occupational health and safety does not specifically address the intake or use of drugs or alcohol (the general provisions of Law 3850/2010 apply). For reasons of protection of personal data and privacy, tests designed to specifically detect use are not permitted; as a result, the tests conducted can only indirectly lead to conclusions (e.g. medical history, liver tests). Of course, in the case of an accident, the state authorities perform blood tests or alcohol test to investigate the causes of the accident. Also, in many cases, the submission of a criminal record prior to recruitment – definitely in the public and broader public sector and for public utility corporations – is a prerequisite since it shows whether the candidate has been convicted for any offence related to substance use. It should also be noted that, especially over the last four years, within the framework of road traffic controls, the traffic police have been conducting preventive tests in school buses and alcohol tests on professional drivers.

Sofia Lampousaki (Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour, INE/GSEE)

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