December 10, 2018

Tis the Season to be Breathalysed – The Dangers of Drink Driving the Morning After a Work Christmas Party

With work Christmas parties in full swing, alcoholic drinks will inevitably be flowing. If the day after your Christmas party is a normal working day, it’s important to remind your employees of the dangers of drink driving.

Encourage your employees to think ahead about how they will get to work if they have consumed alcohol the night before. Within some businesses, employees drive or operate machinery as part of their role. In these environments you need to consider how you will deal with this potential risk the morning after the Christmas party. 

In 2016, over 1,200 people were seriously injured when a driver was over the legal alcohol limit and 240 people were killed in drink driving accidents. Despite decades of campaigning over 70,000 drivers are still caught driving above the drink drive limits.

Every December we see annual campaigns by Police Forces that target drink drivers and anyone considering driving the morning after consuming alcohol. These campaigns urge drivers to consider their potential blood alcohol levels which, even several hours after their last alcoholic drink, can be well over the legal limit for driving.

Alcohol doesn’t only affect our ability to drive cars and vehicles on the road but can affect how we operate dangerous machinery and workplace transport including forklift trucks and other machinery.

Health & Safety legislation doesn’t put limits on the amount of alcohol that can be consumed but employers are required to ensure that staff members are competent to operate the machinery and equipment they use. If decision making is impaired by blood alcohol levels, it is unlikely that operators will be competent until these levels are reduced.

Drink driving legislation provides a benchmark. However, in some industries a Zero Tolerance on alcohol in the blood stream is required to ensure safety.

What’s the law on drink driving in Britain?

In England and Wales, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

In December 2014, the alcohol limit for drivers in Scotland reduced from 80 milligrammes of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood to 50 milligrammes of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood.

So how does alcohol affect people and their ability to drive and work safely?

Alcohol is produced when the sugars from fruits or cereals are fermented by yeasts.

Unlike food, alcohol doesn’t need to be digested and can pass quickly and easily into the bloodstream with around 20% being absorbed immediately. After entering the bloodstream, alcohol travels very quickly to every part of the body including the brain.

Alcohol dulls parts of the brain that control how the body works. This has an adverse effect on a person’s actions and decision making resulting in reduced levels of control.

On average, it takes the liver about one hour to break down one unit of alcohol. This means that after a night of moderate to heavy drinking, the levels of alcohol in the body could still be high enough to reduce a person’s ability to think clearly and make decisions.

Consequently, your employees could be putting themselves and others in danger when driving or operating machinery the morning after a work Christmas party.

Contrary to some myths, there is no way to speed up this process and only time will sober you up.

In addition, driving under the influence of drugs is a growing problem and in 2012 it became an offence to drive with certain specified drugs in the blood stream. For example, it is illegal to drive with more than 2 milligrammes per litre of cannabis in the blood stream regardless of how well you are driving.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay In the blood stream?

Once in the bloodstream, alcohol leaves the system in two ways. 10% leaves via breath, perspiration, and urine. However, the majority of alcohol in the bloodstream, 90%, has to be metabolised (broken down in the body).

In general, everyone, regardless of age, size, or race, metabolizes alcohol at the same pace. That pace is .015 of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) per hour.

Every hour you are not drinking, .015 of the alcohol in the body is being metabolised and disappearing.

This website provides an indication of possible BIC levels for the number of units consumed, note these values should not be relied on for any assurance that a person may be below any legal limit and are an indication only.

If a person consumed around 20 units, equivalent to around 10 pints of beer or lager, it would take around 15 hours, after they stopped drinking, before their BAC was likely to be below the English drink driving level.

Does drinking coffee help you process alcohol faster or sober up?

No. Only time can sober you up. Many people say black coffee or cold showers help them sober up, but it is not true because the body has to process the alcohol.

How does the date of your Christmas party impact the risk of drink driving?

If you require your employees to drive or operate dangerous machinery make sure that your work Christmas party is planned around shift patterns and gives your employees time to reduce their Blood Alcohol Concentrations before driving or operating machinery.

Moorepay customers can contact our advice line on 0845 073 0240 for more information. 

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About the author

Philip Barker

Philip has worked for Moorepay for over nine years, starting as a Health & Safety Consultant in February 2008 before taking up the position of Consultancy Manager in January 2015. Coming from a retail background, both as a store manager and health & safety professional, he already had a good cross industry experience. Working at Moorepay has provided an opportunity to broaden both knowledge and experience across a wide range of industry sectors. Philip started his health & safety career after a number of years managing retail stores and holds a HNC in Environmental Health Studies, a Diploma in Environmental Policy and a NEBOSH Diploma.