Seafarers in risk group for alcohol problems

Zero tolerance is not a good method for preventing alcohol problems onboard. It is more successful to have an open dialogue about drinking habits.
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Zero tolerance is not a good method for preventing alcohol problems onboard. It is more successful to have an open dialogue about drinking habits.

That is the opinion of Charlotte Almgren from Alna, an organisation which works for the prevention of alcohol and drug related problems in professional life.

Charlotte Almgren. Photo: Jan Beinö
Charlotte Almgren. Photo: Jan Beinö

One person in 10 in Sweden is in the potential risk group for alcohol, and of them 2–3% are diagnosed as having an addiction. Only a small number are completely excluded socially, and the vast majority of people with alcohol problems carry on working.
– The number of people with potentially risky drinking habits is increasing, and it is this group which creates problems and is the most costly at workplaces, says Charlotte Almgren.
There are large consumers of alcohol in all age groups and in all professional groups. Studies show that there are a number of work-related factors that increase the risk of alcohol problems: a lot of travelling, working alone or in small work teams, stress, pressure, and easy access to alcohol are among such factors.
Alcohol ban no guaranteed cure
– Seafarers are one of the risk groups. Forbidding alcohol onboard does not mean that the problem is solved. Individuals who have serious and long-term alcohol problems may have such a high consumption during their free time onboard and ashore that their ability to work is influenced, says Charlotte Almgren.
Successful work with drugs and alcohol problems onboard is based on a clear and transparent policy on the part of the shipping company. The policy should not only state blood alcohol limits and the company’s views on drug abuse, but also describe why the company has its standpoints. The next step is to make the policy known amongst everyone onboard and to create acceptance of it.
– As a manager you can take up the policy at workplace meetings and safety committees to promote a discussion about alcohol culture onboard. Most people would agree that you must not be drunk while on duty, but is it acceptable to be hung over, for example?
She underlines the importance of every­body knowing the consequences if it comes to light that somebody has an alcohol problem.
– As long as they believe that their colleague may be fired if they say any­thing, people stay silent. They don’t want to feel that they are snitching on their friend and nobody wants a bad conscience about one of their colleagues losing their job. In fact, an employer is obliged to offer rehabilitation and if everybody is aware of this fact it may lead to a more open attitude. People may then have the strength to help out a colleague if they suspect he or she has a problem.
Linda Sundgren

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