EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Portugal: Final Questionnaire for 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

Heloísa Perista and Janine Nunes

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/drugs at the workplace in Portugal is scarcely addressed and its general prevalence is unknown. But this is a reason for concern in many companies and organisations, namely in construction and transport. No information is available on the rational of drug use at work and only few, many related to working conditions, regarding the use of alcohol.On the other hand, while a reduced productivity is the most common effect of alcohol use in the work organisations, consuming illegal drugs mostly impacts in terms of delays and absenteeism.No general legislation or agreement intended to prohibit or limit alcohol/drug use at work exists, nor specifically related to testing practices, which leads companies to adopt norms, by internal regulations.There are neither specific national prevention programmes. However, some more general national plans, and specific projects, include relevant activities in this domain.


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

There are no national statistical sources in Portugal that provide information on the issue of alcohol/drug use at the workplace.

The 2005/2006 National Health Survey (Inquérito Nacional de Saúde - 2005/2006) includes information on the use of alcohol but not referring to the workplace.

The same applies to the 2001 and 2007 National Survey on the Use of Psychoactive Substances among the General Population (Inquérito Nacional ao Consumo de Substâncias Psicoactivas na População Geral – Portugal - 2001 and 2007).

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.

Few other sources of information recently published may provide valuable information on the issue:

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 is not data on the general prevalence of drug/alcohol use at the workplace in Portugal.

The 2007 study conducted by Margarida Bizarro on the construction and public works sector concludes that most of the surveyed workers declare to drink alcohol with the meal (73%), and 25% say they do it during the working time.

As to the measurement of their level of alcoholemia, 93% of the tests showed results below 0.5g/l.

An expressive majority of the respondents (84%) disagrees or fully disagrees with the statement that the alcoholemia control impacts on the use of alcohol at the workplace and/or during the working day.

Pereira et al. (2008) concludes that a large majority of the organisations express worries with the use of either alcohol or drugs at the workplace: alcohol – 96%; cannabis – 94%; cocaine/stimulants – 92%; opioid – 90%; and prescribed drugs – 81%.

On the other hand, according to the same study, the number of workers affected by the use of these substances has kept relatively constant regarding all these except for the case of prescribed drugs, where there was an increase in the last three years (i.e. between 2000 and 2003).

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

No data and information are available on the rational of drug use at work and only very scarce regarding the use of alcohol.

Most construction workers (92%) (Bizarro, 2007) consider not to be influenced by colleagues regarding the use of alcohol. 5% relates the use of grape marc spirit with working in cold environments while 17% relate drinking beer at the workplace with the warmer weather. 6% state they get nervous after a few hours without drinking alcohol. And 10% mention that personal problems impact on the use of alcohol.

As to the transport sector, the case study on TAP (Lucas, 2009), concludes that most cases of alcohol use are found among the younger workers. The reasons for alcohol consumption are attributed to family problems, but also to work-related causes such as stress, fatigue, and low motivation. Life styles and the groups of belonging may also lead to the use of alcohol.

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…)

Few data and information are available on the consequences of drug/alcohol use at work.

A study focusing on different sectors and involving companies and social partners (Pereira et al., 2008) identifies six main problems at work associated with consuming alcohol and/or illegal drugs:

Problems associated with consumption of alcohol and/or illegal drugs




Reduced productivity









Reduced motivation



Disciplinary problems



Conflicts with the supervisory staff



While a reduced productivity is the most common effect of alcohol use in the work organisations, consuming illegal drugs mostly impacts in terms of delays and absenteeism.

As to the construction (Bizarro, 2007), a large majority if the surveyed workers (87%) states not having been a victim of any accidents at work in the last two years.

23% of these workers consider that the use of alcohol does not reduce work productivity. However, 72% agree that consuming alcohol increases risks at work; and 84% say that they avoid to consume alcohol when they use dangerous work equipment (with a higher risk). An impressive majority (92%) agrees or fully agrees with the statement that it is dangerous to work with a colleague who is drunk.

In the air transport sector (Lucas, 2009), several consequences of the use of alcohol were identified: nausea, hands tremor; isolation, aggressive behaviour, nervousness and irritability; reduced decision-making and reasoning capacity; lower self-esteem; indifference towards work, worsening of the tasks performance, delays, absenteeism, reduced productivity; increased risk of accidents and fatalities; conflicts with co-workers and claims.

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

There is no general legislation or agreement specifically intended to prohibit or limit alcohol/drug use at work in Portugal, nor specifically related to testing practices.

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

A collective work contract was celebrated between the Association of Enterprises of Construction, Public Works and Services, and others (Associação de Empresas de Construção, Obras Públicas e Serviços e outras - AECOPS) and the Trade Union of Construction, Public Works and similar Services, and others (Sindicato da Construção, Obras Públicas e Serviços afins e outros – SETACOOP) in September 2001.

The clause 78 of this collective work contract refers specifically to the prevention and control of alcoholemia: it is forbidden the performance of any work tasks under the effects of alcohol, namely driving machines, work at heights, and work in grips. It is considered as being under the effects of alcohol the worker who, when submitted to a test of the alcohol in breath, presents a level of alcoholemia equal or higher than 0.5 g/l.

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?

The lack of legislation in this domain leads companies to adopt, by internal regulations, norms related to the use of alcohol and drugs at the workplace and to testing practices intended to control it (an example of these company level internal regulations on the prevention and control of the use of alcohol and drugs may be found in a large public company of the transport sector – Rede Ferroviária Nacional EP – REFER). In spite of the recognition of this regulating power to employers, labour law also defines that this regulating power must be exerted in compliance with a set of rules and fully respecting the workers’ labour and citizenship rights.

According to the Labour Code (Código do Trabalho, approved by Law 7/2009, of 12 February), the employer cannot demand to the worker or the candidate to work the undertake or presentation of any tests or medical exams, except in the situations foreseen in the legislation on safety and health at work and under special circumstances related to the protection of the worker or of third persons or when this is justified by the nature of the activity. In these cases the employer must present the reasons adduced in a written form to the candidate to work or to the worker. The tests and exams must be undertaken by the direct responsibility of a medical doctor, who may only communicate to the employer if the worker or candidate to work is or is not able to perform the activity; the employer cannot in any case get access to the results or clinical data.

The undertake of medical exams is typified in the juridical regime of promotion of health and safety at work (Regime jurídico da promoção da segurança e saúde no trabalho, regulated by Law 102/2009, of 10 September) – admission exam, occasional exams, complementary exams – with the purpose of “checking the physical and psychical aptitude of the worker to the exercise of his/her occupation, as well as the repercussion of work and its conditions on the worker’s health” (Art. 108).

The same Law 102/2009 also defines that the employer has to consult previously in a written form the workers’ representatives for health and safety or, in their absence, the workers’ themselves on the assessment of risks to safety and health at work (Art. 18).

According to the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses – Intersindical Nacional – CGTP-IN), the consideration of matters related to the use of alcohol/drugs at the workplace is not very common at the collective bargaining in Portugal. In their view, the few attempts made were not very successful.

The collective work contract celebrated between AECOPS and SETACOOP (mentioned above in 3.1) in the construction industry mentions that the control of alcoholemia may be performed randomly among the workers, as well as to those who show signs of drunkenness. Appropriate material, duly verified and certified must be used. The test for alcohol in breath will be done either by the employer or by a worker with delegated competence for that purpose, both with adequate training. The worker has always the possibility to ask for the assistance of a witness and has the right to a counter proof (within the following 10 minutes). The testing is compulsory, being presumed, in case of refusal, that the worker presents a level of alcoholemia equal or higher than 0.5 g/l. When the test results are positive or are presumed to be positive, the worker will be subjected to the company’s disciplinary power; the sanction will be graduated according to the dangerousness and the re-incidence of the act. As a protective measure, that worker will be immediately prevented to continue working during the rest of the day, with the consequent loss of pay. When the test is positive, a written communication is drafted, a copy of this being given to the worker. A permanent monitoring commission, composed by eight members, four in representation of each of the parties, supervises the applicability of these matters.

The Workers General Union (União Geral de Trabalhadores – UGT) considers that specific legislation regarding testing practices intended to control the use of alcohol/drugs at work is crucial and urgent.

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

The scarce development of regulation / agreements on testing impairs an analysis on changes and evolution.

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

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

There are no specific national programmes for the prevention of alcohol/drug use at work. However, some more general relevant national strategies and plans should be mentioned here.

The National Strategy for Safety and Health at Work 2008-2012 (Estratégia Nacional para a Segurança e Saúde no Trabalho 2008-2012, Resolution of the Council of Ministers 59/2008) led by the Authority for Working Conditions (Autoridade para as Condições de Trabalho – ACT), a tripartite body, includes, under its Objective 1, aiming to develop and consolidate a prevention culture, Measure 1.7: “to develop, in articulation with the National Plan against Drugs and Drug Addictions (Plano Nacional contra a Droga e as Toxicodependências), prevention programmes at the workplace to combat alcoholism and other drug addictions”. Under this scope, several activities have been included in the ACT’s annual action plans, such as: the elaboration of a support guide on prevention of alcoholism and other drug addictions; the elaboration of a support guide on prevention of alcoholism and other drug addictions and promotion of a campaign to combat alcoholism addressed to the temporary agency work sector. A document entitled “Safety and Health at Work and the Prevention of the Use of Psychoactive Substances: Guidelines for Intervention at the Workplace” was produced in 2010 (in co-operation with the Institute of Drugs and Drug Addiction (Instituto da Droga e da Toxicodependência, IP – IDT, and with the contribution of social partners).

The National Plan against Drugs and Drug Addictions 2005-2012 (Resolution of the Council of Ministers 115/2006, of 18 September) is led by the IDT, IP). One of the objectives of this Plan is to develop an intervention model aiming at the implementation of prevention programmes at the workplace which promote reinsertion and prevent desinsertion.

Also under the responsibility of the IDT, IP, the National Plan for the Reduction of Problems Related to Alcohol 2009-2012 (Plano nacional para a redução de problemas ligados ao álcool 2009-2012) includes “Adults and Workplace” among its seven intervention areas. The main objective in this intervention area is to prevent the alcohol’s harmful effects on adults and to reduce the negative consequences at the workplace. The activities to be developed are:

  • to draft a set of norms regarding the problems of alcohol at work, to be integrated in a legal diploma;

  • self-regulation for the reduction of the use of alcohol at the workplace;

  • identification of practices of national employers regarding prevention, treatment and reinsertion of the problems associated to alcohol at the workplace, with the recognition of good practices in this domain;

  • information to the services of hygiene, safety and health at the workplace and to the workers’ representative structures, aiming at an improved accessibility to the available programmes and answers;

  • and elaboration and dissemination of guidelines for the development of integrated programmes to the problems associated to alcohol (from prevention to reinsertion).

The European project EURIDICE, developed in Portugal under the name Interaction programme, also deserves specific mention. This Project has the objective of preventing the use of psychoactive substances at the workplace and is run by CGTP-IN with the support of IDT, IP. The target groups of the Project are the workers and their representatives, in the companies and organisations where the Project is being implemented: Municipality and Municipal Services of Loures; Municipalities of Seixal, Águeda and Vendas Novas; LOGICA (electrical industry) and Saica Pack (cellulose and graphical industry). The activities include:

  • elaboration and application of a questionnaire to the workers on their representations on the substances and their use;

  • distribution of information leaflets and brochures;

  • sensitization and training actions addressed to all the workers and to the staff with supervisory roles in particular.

Some labour doctors of the organisations where the Project is being implemented are members of the working groups. The trade union commissions ensure the liaison between the workers and the project. It is usually up to them to request the development of the activities but the companies/organisations also do it in some cases.

CGTP-IN makes a positive assessment of this Project, namely given the active participation of the workers and the shared responsibility among all the actors involved: trade unions, companies and other employer organisations, and a public institute. The promotion of improved conditions for prevention and intervention on the use of psychoactive substances at the workplace is also considered as a positive outcome of the Project.

UGT has developed several interventions to combat the use of alcohol/drugs at the workplace. A sensitization campaign was promoted in 2004 on the risks associated to that use, addressed to workers, trade unions and general population.

Also in 2004, a contract-type for collective bargaining including proposal for clauses on the prevention of alcohol and drugs was drafted and disseminated among trade-union negotiators.

It is now to be launched by UGT a Campaign for the Prevention of Use of Alcohol and Drugs at the Workplace. This Campaign is addressed to unions’ negotiators, unions’ delegates and workers’ representatives. It aims at their sensitization and advice as privileged agents for the sensitization/prevention and early detection of situations of use/abuse of alcohol and drugs at the workplace.

Commentary by the NC

The scarcity of the available data and information on the use of alcohol/drugs at the workplace in Portugal makes it difficult to assess the prevalence of the phenomenon.

Some recent research has though shown that this problem is a matter for concern for most companies and social partner organisations. Construction and transport are among the few sectors on which studies have been conducted, with conclusions that re-enforce the need for preventive actions in this domain.

However, the use of alcohol/drugs is an issue requiring further consideration in national legislation/agreements and prevention programmes specifically addressed to the workplace.


  • - Bizarro, Margarida “Consumo de Bebidas Alcoólicas Durante a Realização de Trabalho na Construção Civil: Implicações para a Segurança Ocupacional”. Masters’ degree on Human Engineering, University of Minho, 2007.

  • - Arlindo Pereira et al. “Da Estratégia Militar à Investigação Estratégica. Álcool e Drogas em Meio Laboral e Militar”, Military Journal, 2008.

  • - Lucas, Alexandra “O alcoolismo nas Organizações - Estudo de caso da TAP”, thesis submitted as part of a Masters’ degree on Management, Higher Institute of Labour and Corporate Science (Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa, ISCTE), Lisbon, 2009.

Heloísa Perista and Janine Nunes, CESIS - Centro de Estudos para a Intervenção Social

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