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A global health business has teamed up with a host of leading UK experts in substance misuse for a ground-breaking project to help businesses cope with the issue among workers, believed to cost UK industry billions of pounds a year.

Synergy Health, which has its headquarters in Swindon, is working with Alcohol Concern and other organisations to deliver a special conference focusing on how employers can detect and deal with staff members working under the influence.

Synergy Health’s Technical Services Manager, Dr Philip Kindred, has warned that the misuse of drugs and alcohol is contributing to reduced productivity, absenteeism and accidents at work.

In fact, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development research shows that drugs and alcohol are a contributory factor in 26% of the workplace accidents that cost the UK economy over £4 billion per annum.

Dr Kindred said: “There is reasonable awareness of alcohol issues affecting the workplace but employers have had little support in tackling drug abuse among workers, which is a growing problem and is costing them dear.

“On top of this, significant numbers of companies still refuse to believe problems with either exist even though the work of police and Synergy Health says differently – we have seen over 50% of employees at a single company return a positive reading during testing and half the applicants at another pre-employment screening walk out on hearing they would be subjected to drug and alcohol tests.”

Dr Kindred added: “Some businesses do have very good drug and alcohol policies but the majority still don’t and with new ‘designer drugs’ such as Mephedrone and Benzo Fury starting to be seen within the workplace employers can’t afford not to be in a position to deal with the issues this presents.”

Alcohol Concern has a distinguished background of research into substance misuse issues and works to raise awareness through the delivery of training and consultancy services, and the publication of factsheets, briefings and policy reports.

As a leading authority on the subject, Alcohol Concern Workplace Programme Manager Lauren Booker will also speak at the ‘Drugs at Work’ conference and welcomed the opportunity to raise further awareness of the potential effects on both employers and employees.

Lauren said: “Alcohol use can fly under the radar in the workplace with many people not wanting or knowing how to address it. But, it can be a big problem for businesses leading to rising absenteeism, reduced productivity and can lead to increased risk of accidents.”

“That’s why it’s vital for organisations to adopt a workplace culture that includes alcohol awareness in its health and wellbeing offering, and supports individuals to make healthier choices.”

The keynote speaker will be Consultant Psychiatrist and Addiction Medicine Specialist, Dr Adam Winstock, Honorary Senior Lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, and author of the Global Drugs Survey (GDS).

Created to move the understanding of drugs and associated societal drug trends forward, the most recent GDS will include results specifically relevant to substance misuse and the workplace for the first time ever when it is published this April.

Dr Winstock said: “This year we will present the largest ever study conducted into attitudes to drug testing in workplaces across the world. We will be asking the workforce how this might impact on how decisions about working somewhere are made, and how appropriate employees feel industry discussion regarding this is as a whole.

“As a professional striving to help people make decisions around their use of drugs and alcohol, that keep themselves and those they care for safe, either way well-crafted workplace policies are an essential component in promoting a healthy, productive and happy workforce.”

The conference entitled ‘Drugs at Work’ will take place at the London’s Royal Holloway University, Surrey on 24th April.