Recognising the Signs of Intoxication in Patrons | RSA Online NSW

In New South Wales alcohol intoxication is an issue to be taken seriously. The liquor and gaming industry has set out intoxication standards for licensing purposes, to which liquor and gaming licensees are expected to adhere. The guidelines, outlined in the  as per the NSW Department of Industry (Liquor and Gaming NSW GL4003 ‘Intoxication Guidelines’) are intended to supplement Sector 5 of the Liquor Act  2007, which is the law that informs the responsible service of alcohol in NSW – RSA Online NSW -.


The purpose of these guidelines is, among others, to help licensees identify whether or not a person is intoxicated. Licensees are obligated to follow the guidelines primarily for these three reasons, as per the GL4003:

  • to minimise the harm that is associated with the misuse and abuse of liquor;
  • to encourage responsible attributes and practices towards the promotion, sale, supply, service, and consumption of alcohol;
  • and to ensure that the sale, supply, and consumption of liquor contributes to, and does not detract from, the amenity of community life.


Liquor licensees are prohibited from selling alcohol to intoxicated persons. This is part of their obligations to serve alcohol responsibly, along with preventing intoxication from occurring on their premises. [Failing to promote or support the responsible service of alcohol can result in the state levying fines, higher licence fees, and the possible suspension or cancellation of liquor or gaming licence]


Intoxication offences that fall under the NSW liquor laws are expanded upon further by the Liquor & Gaming NSW GL4003 ‘Intoxication Guidelines’ and “Prevention of intoxication on licensed premises March 2015” guidelines (the article is downloadable from the NSW Department of Industry’s Liquor & Gaming website). These guidelines are intended for the licensees and their serving staff, providing them with an outline for their obligations as responsible servers.


The intoxication guidelines include four categories of characteristics. These four categories are SPEECH, BALANCE, COORDINATION, and BEHAVIOUR. These categories are neither exhaustive nor conclusive, in and of themselves, but combined may provide a reasonable indication that a person may be intoxicated.


Signs of intoxicated speech may include slurred words, rambling or unintelligible conversation, incoherent or muddled speech, loss of train of thought, inability or failure to understand normal conversation, and difficulty with focusing or paying attention.


Meanwhile, signs of intoxication relating to balance may include a person being unsteady on their feet, swaying uncontrollably, staggering, having difficulty walking, having trouble standing or staying upright, falling or stumbling, and bumping into or knocking over furniture or people.


Lack of coordination may also be a sign of intoxication. As well, spilling or dropping drinks, fumbling with loose change, having difficulty with counting money or paying, having trouble opening or closing doors, and struggling with finding one’s mouth when drinking can be signs that a person is intoxicated.


There’s also behaviour to consider. A person who is rude, aggressive, belligerent, or argumentative may be intoxicated. Displaying offensive or bad-tempered behaviour may also be a sign, as well as a person being physically violent, loud, confused, or disorderly. Offensive language and inappropriate language may fall under intoxicated behaviour. Exuberance and over-friendliness may be more uncommon but are nonetheless considered as signs of intoxication. Drowsiness, vomiting, and rapid drinking are likewise regarded as signs of intoxication.


All of these signs may be considered on their own merits, or in concurrence with other signs, to judge whether or not a person is intoxicated.


Appropriately judging a person’s intoxication or lack thereof takes some training, which RSA Online NSW courses offer. For those interested, courses are available through Club Training Australia so consider a job in responsible service of alcohol today.