October 20, 2008
The media portrays binge drinking at epidemic proportions and over the past 12 months the government has introduced radical initiatives such as bar lock-outs, bans on shouting rounds and increased taxes on ‘alcopops’ to help tackle the problem.
Grog-fuelled violence and drink-driving-deaths saturate our headlines to the point we are numb with indifference. But the cost to individuals and the wider community due to absenteeism, lack of productivity, accidents and subsequent mental health issues as a result of ‘one to many’ is often drowned out.
Obvious to some, it may come as a surprise it is those pouring the pints and concocting our cocktails that they are most susceptible to developing alcoholic tendencies.
One of Australia’s authorities on workplace alcohol and drug use, the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction NCETA, reported in 2005: “the hospitality industry had the largest percentage of workers who frequently drank at short-term risk or high-risk levels (15.2%)” with long-term risky drinking at more than 13 per cent.
Director of the National Drug and Research Institute (NDRI), Professor Steve Allsop confirmed these concerns, saying that accessibility, social expectations, shift-work stressors and poor employer supervision were all contributing factors.
“With hospitality, in addition to physical availability, you have social accessibility, the perception of what’s normal and accepted: if everyone else around you is doing it then it must be ok,” Professor Allsop says.
“Plus, if you’re only closing up after midnight or early in the morning you can’t just come home and go to bed. You’re still a bit wired. That’s why a lot of people party and socialise after their shifts; it’s their time to unwind, and who else are you going to find at that time to join you other than your workmates.”
But Professor Allsop also says that those recruited into the profession may already have a predisposition to drinking, especially young people entering the workforce.
“Certain people may be attracted to working with alcohol because they have an interest in it already. If you like a drink and are often hanging out in bars, you may be more inclined to look for work in that environment – which means you’re already at risk.”
Brian Kearney, CEO of Australian Hotels Association Victoria is skeptical about the problem.
“I haven’t seen any research but it’s like saying: ‘do people who work in car yards, do they become more involved with speeding?’” Mr Kearney says.
“People who work in hospitality see both sides: the ugly effects of excessive consumption and the pleasure of those who responsibly consume.
“Like any employer we want healthy staff and we wont put up with people who take sick leave because they’ve got a hangover. They’ve got a job to do and should turn up to do it.”
Mr Kearney says because all hospitality employees are required to complete Responsible Service of Alcohol accreditation, they are more aware of the issues and dangers associated with problem drinking than most.
“It’s pure speculation on my part, but it could be fair to presume that greater exposure to unacceptable behaviour could moderate you. With heightened sensitivity to the consequences they see regularly, they could become more wary and less likely to abuse alcohol.”
Mr Kearney also says the issue lacks significance as “it doesn’t reflect in workers’ compensation premiums and is not factored into increased business costs for insurance purposes.”
WorkSafe Victoria, the state authority for occupational health and safety, has no specific training programs or preventative measures in place to combat this epidemic.
In their new campaign, launched prior to ‘Work Safe Week’ commencing the 27 October, they acknowledge that young workers are more likely to be injured at work than any other population.
They also say the hospitality industry is the single biggest employer of young and inexperienced workers.
But WorkSafe spokesperson Michael Birt says they haven’t focussed on problem drinking, instead: “we have focused more on traditional OH&S concerns like accidents and harassment.”
Despite this, NDRI’s Professor Allsop says it has been on the national OH&S agenda for some time and all jurisdictions have engaged with finding responsible solutions.
“I’m cautious about recommending lockouts. We need to look at price; at liquor licensing enforcement; the practicalities of not selling across the bar to drunks or the under age; we need to look at the way it’s promoted and ensure it’s appropriate,” he says.
More importantly, he recognises the problem is real and needs to be addressed.
“The fact that the hospitality industry attracts and hence recruits from high risk groups, like youth which are the heaviest drinkers in the community, the possibility of developing alcohol problems, putting themselves and others at risk, is a major issue and should be on the front page of every OH&S induction manual.”
What are your thoughts?
October 20, 2008
Dr Geoff Dick, senior lecturer in information systems at the University of NSW has conducted research on the impact of social networking tools such as Facebook and Myspace.
Although he says that social networking websites should be used as an adjunct to the day to day communications, his studies have shown that deleting a friend from Facebook is the same as making a “declaration of war.”
According to Dr Dick’s research, most users of Facebook have on average 150 friends. Of these friends there may be only half a dozen that he would consider the user to have an intimate relationship with.
Although it is obvious that a user may not have a close relationship with everyone in their online friendship group, Dr Dick acknowledges that problems arise when a user deletes a ‘friend’ from their cyber-world.
With so much personal information available on a user’s profile page, the more friends a user has, the greater the chance that this information can be misused.
“You would be somewhat distressed if someone else put that information out there to your 150 friends.”
If a user has a failing friendship online, there is the option to delete the friend, but this does not come without consequences in the real world.
Dr Dicks says that a user can have both ‘friends’ and ‘acquaintances’ online but problems arise if one was to conduct a “cull” of them.
“Removing someone from your friend list is almost a declaration of war.”
SOCIAL NETWORKING TOOL
Although there may be negative aspects of developing relationships on social networking tools, Dr Dicks say that they are also a great way to communicate with people you may otherwise not see.
The benefit of social networking websites is that they can overcome constraints such as distance and bring people closer together, strengthening relationships.
“The social networking sites offer an opportunity to keep a wider network of friends.”
“It is not only happening at a social level, but also at a work level.”
October 21, 2008
For Lee McCosker, head of the Australian Free Range Pork Farmers Association, there are few things as frustrating as her product’s label being misused.
McCokser has been raising free-range pigs for 10 years. She has 150 sows on 175 acres of her property and knows well the labour involved in having pigs grow naturally.
“Sometimes, like on rainy days, you can really wish you weren’t a free-range pig farmer,” she says.
Listen to McCosker talk about her pigs and view images of her farm:
Images Courtesy of Melanda Park Free Range Farm.
Although she has no trouble moving her own product, McCosker senses the growth of the free-range industry is being stymied by the absence of accreditation-based meat labeling.
“With the term ‘bred free-range’, for instance, most people aren’t aware of pig production methods in Australia and they just see the ‘free-range’ part of it and think, ‘Oh, that’s a free-range product,’ says McCosker.
Other producers drop the “bred”, labelling their meat free-range when it is only partially so.
“When you’re a free-range producer you have to market yourself, which can be daunting. And when you’re confronted with a butcher who says ‘Oh yeah, I get free-range, $3.60 a kilo’, well, it’s not free-range but someone told him it was so he’s happy to market it as that and make his money. There’s heaps of that sort of thing.”
Yet genuine free-range is a product that’s easy to define.
“Free-range means that they are free to range on open pasture, that there are no sow stalls or farrowing crates, that they’re allowed to exhibit natural behaviours and that their growth is not interfered with with the use of hormones and growth promoters,” says McCosker.
“It’s just unfortunate that they call themselves ‘bred free-range’ because it’s very deceiving. You’re either free-range or you’re not. If I was a bred fre- range farmer, I would be seeing the writing on the wall … I’d come up with my own term and call it what it is, a much better product than factory farming.”
And she’s clear on what needs to be done.
“We need proper labelling. It’s the same battle that the chicken industry is going through with free-range chicken meat and eggs, where you have an industry body that are loathe to do anything to upset the status quo because they are funded by levies from producers and most of those producers – in the case of the pork industry 95 per cent of them – are intensive.”
RSPCA accreditation is not an option for free-range farmers as it doesn’t come close to recognising the level of care they give their animals. Moreover, McCosker says the RSPCA brand misleads consumers.
“The assumption is that RSPCA means free-range, and it’s not. It means they have met the RSPCA animal welfare standards but those standards do include indoor animal housing.
“I get a little bit annoyed about it because I don’t think the RSPCA realise that they’re actually harming the true free-range farmer … they should make it more clear to people that RSPCA accreditation does not mean free-range. People have already made that connection because of RSPCA free-range eggs and they make the assumption that the pigs are free-range as well, but they’re not.”
The Free Range Farmers Association took their case to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission only to be told that as there is no official definition of free-range there is nothing the commission can do.
“We’re getting bounced around everywhere and industry is just hoping that we’ll get tired of getting bounced around and disappear. But there are some very dedicated people who do this sort of thing and we’re not going away.”
Now, there is a solution in sight. Humane Choice, an independent free range accreditation program operating across all animal farming, will soon begin working with pig farmers.
“We’ll be trying to gather up the free-range guys that are around and teaching them what they need to know on how to get accredited,” says McCosker.
October 20, 2008
According to the National Health and Medical Research Council Australian Alcohol Guidelines (2006), alcohol abuse is recognised by the amount and frequency of drinking patterns:
Short-term risky to high-risk drinking is classified as:
- Males = 7 or more standard drinks per day, 3 days a week or more
- Females = 5 or more drinks per day, 3 days a week or more
Long-term hazardous or harmful risk drinking is recognised as:
- Males = more than 5 standard drinks per day or > 29 / week
- Females = more than 3 per day or > 15 / week
October 21, 2008
The debate over pork production is polarised, with opposing sides often citing the same facts in their arguments.
Welfare groups like Animals Australia disdain the use of sow stalls and farrowing crates and the clipping of piglet’s teeth and tails, yet industry representative Australia Pork Ltd says these practices are part of a humane agenda.
Free range farmers, meanwhile, find their efforts to expand are undermined by there being no official definition of what they do.
Interestingly, the one point all players agree on is that inadequate labelling laws are leaving consumers misinformed; but they are poles apart on just what we should be told.
Given the variation between these groups’ aims and outlooks, here, in their own words, are their opinions.
A cruel industry
Animals Australia on why intensive farming is innately cruel.
The industry’s challenge
Australia Pork Ltd on animal rights groups and the real problems our pork industry faces.
Offering an alternative
The Free Range Pork Farmers Association on the challenges of producing and selling an alternative product.
October 20, 2008
The fastest growing demographic is those 25 years old and older
Facebook is the 4th most-trafficked website in the world (comScore)
140 new applications added per day
Over 55,000 regional, work-related, collegiate, and high school networks
Explore the issues surrounding this communication tool
October 20, 2008
Local and international experts agree that bar-staff must be vigilant to avoid falling victim to vocational vulnerabilities.
- A third of the Australian workforce drinks at risky levels
- One in every 16 works under the influence of alcohol
- Alcohol related health issues are more predominant in the hospitality industry with those working in the profession having higher rates of cirrhosis of the liver.
(Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2006)
- Male and female bar staff were more than twice as likely to suffer from alcohol related death than the general population.
Office for National Statistics (UK 2005) (The Guardian 2007)
- 3 million working days are lost every year due to alcohol and drug related problems at a cost of more than $500 million per year due to absenteeism and lost productivity
(Donna Bull – CEO of Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia told the Australian Psychological Society in June 2007)
October 8, 2008
By Annabel Maclean, Kate Frazer and Tom Kelly
Triple M sports commentator and Swinburne media lecturer, Peter Marcato talks about the media coverage of the Paralympic Games and where coverage for this event is headed as journalism becomes digital.
October 20, 2008
The process of diagnosing young hospitality workers with problem drinking is fraught with difficulty, ultimately exacerbating the problem in society.
Although several tools are at hand to screen for alcoholism, differentiating controlled drinkers from individuals suffering from alcoholism remains a grey area.
General Practitioner Dr Fiona Waters attributes this difficulty to our cultural acceptance of excessive drinking as normal behaviour.
The most feasible approach to identifying problem drinkers involves an objective assessment of the adverse lifestyle effects of excessive drinking relative to the perceived advantages.
Hospitality workers diagnosed as alcohol dependent, in accordance with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – IV, demonstrate maladaptive alcohol consumption patterns. This causes significant impairment, including:
- Increased tolerance to alcohol
- Withdrawal in the absence of alcohol
- Consumption of greater amounts or over a longer time period than intended
- Desire to reduce or control alcohol consumption
- Failed attempts to moderate excessive drinking
- Considerable time devoted to obtaining, consuming and recovering from alcohol
- Relinquishing or reducing social, occupational or recreational activities
- Continued consumption of alcohol despite awareness of the short and long-term effects
Suited to young hospitality workers, the CAGE questionnaire is a quick and non-confrontational diagnostic survey, which can be applied by a general practitioner.
Two positive responses reveal that the individual should seek help for his or her drinking behaviour:
The CAGE Questionnaire
1. Have you ever felt you need to Cut down on your drinking?
2. Have people Annoyed you by criticising your drinking?
3. Have you ever felt Guilty about drinking?
4. Have you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (Eye-opener) to
steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?
Video link: Cirrhosis of the liver
Click on the areas of the body below to see some of the side effects of alcohol:
October 20, 2008
Download Laura Terry
On 8 September 2008, Laura’s best friend, Kathleen made a declaration of war on their friendship when she deleted Laura from her Facebook page.
According to research from the University of New South Wales, users of social networking sites, Facebook and Myspace, have on average 150 friends. Although it may be unlikely that a Facebook user could be intimately close with all of their ‘friends’, when one is deleted, it is the equivalent of a real life dumping.
After two months of no contact from Kathleen, Laura began to think something might be wrong.
She had tried to call her, text her and contact her by email but she received no response. Laura and Kathleen had known each other since high school and had been the closest of friends, but this recent lack of communication made Laura think there may no longer be a friendship.
Laura went online to her Facebook page to see if she could learn anything about her friend’s recent disappearance. Laura then saw, from what was as simple as a click of the mouse, that she had been deleted as her Facebook friend, and to Laura – that was as good as declaring a war.
For Laura, it was a matter of being in Kathleen’s ‘top friends’ then demoted to a lower position and finally removed.
“We had been friends for so long, but after a while our only contact was through comments on Facebook. I guess we stopped seeing each other in person.”
“The fact that she didn’t even have the guts to tell me what was wrong; it’s basically like starting a war. She got all of her friends to delete me, so I did exactly the same thing with mine,” she said.
When asked if there was any chance of repairing the friendship in ‘real life’, Laura was adamant that Kathleen’s decision to delete her online was as good doing it in a phone call or in person and there was no chance or reconciliation.
Failing online friendships can have as much impact as a failing face-to-face relationship. With all online users having their own online ‘space’, the technology that was developed as a ‘social’ network can quickly become very anti-social.
Like in any war, the chance of Laura surrendering without a fight was unlikely. Although Laura could no longer contact Kathleen through her online profile page, she was still able to interact with her by commenting on photos that had been posted by her and her friends.
After making comments about Kathleen’s boyfriend, her social life and past relationships, Laura noticed that several mutual friends of the pair had deleted her from their Facebook account as well.
“I wasn’t trying to make her upset, I just wanted to get her attention by saying some things that she might not want others to hear so she would at least acknowledge me,” Laura said.
For Laura, the whole situation has been surreal. Most of all, she just wants answers about why it happened in the first place, but overwhelmingly she feels that Facebook was a cowardly way to end a long and meaningful relationship.
“Doing this on Facebook has made it more than the ending of a friendship because everything is more dramatic online. If this happened in person things could have been different.”
But more than anything else, Laura is still just waiting for a ‘human’ response.