The United States Department of Labor claims that at least 9 percent of employees working full-time tend to use illicit drugs or are heavy alcohol users. There are also many employees who use alcohol or illicit drugs just before or during their normal working hours. Besides increasing injuries, illness rates, absences, and workers’ compensation costs, alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace can also reduce employee morale and productivity. A drug-free workplace program can assist to improve health and safety in companies in all industries and of all sizes.

There are also employee training courses designed to increase productivity for employees and promote alcohol and drug-free workplaces. Workplaces where employees are not impaired by alcohol or drugs are safer worksites and can run in an enhanced competitive environment that is free from the delays, costs, and tragedies that come due to workplace accidents. Drug-free workplace programs encourage employees to seek help if they find themselves struggling with substance abuse. This article discusses the key elements of a drug-free workplace program.

Drug-free workplace policy

A written drug-free workplace policy is considered to be a foundation of a good drug-free workplace program. Each company needs to tailor their drug-free workplace policy to meet some specific needs. But the most effective policies usually indicate the reasons for putting in place the policy. The rationale can be a commitment for your company to protect the health, safety, and well-being of your customers and employees.

A good drug-free workplace policy should also describe all the prohibited behavior. At a minimum, this can include a statement like the possession, use, sale, or transfer of illegal drugs by workers in the workplace is not allowed.

The policy can also explain the consequences that may come for violating it. These may include discipline, terminating, or referring the employee for assistance. Remember that consequences need to be consistent with current personnel procedures and policies and any applicable state laws. An attorney must review your drug-free workplace policy before you implement it so that it complies with state, federal, and local laws.

Supervisor training

After you develop a drug-free workplace policy, you should consider training your supervisors. This helps them understand the drug-free workplace policy, how to refer workers to available assistance, and ways they can recognize and deal with workers who have performance issues associated with alcohol or drugs.

You should note that supervisors must monitor the performance of employees and enforce the policy. This means that they have to be alert to and document any performance problems. A supervisor should not diagnose drug and alcohol-related problems or offer counseling to a worker. And, if a supervisor is responsible for a drug testing referral that is based on reasonable suspicion, then they need to be trained on the right way to make this determination.

Employee education is also crucial as it offers company-specific information like the details of your drug-free workplace policy. Therefore, a drug-free workplace program needs to include general details about drug and alcohol addiction. It should also state the impact of drugs and alcohol use on work performance, personal life, and health. All your employees need to participate and training should be ongoing via various communication channels like workplace displays, home mailings, and new employee orientation sessions.

Employee assistance

An important element of a drug-free workplace program is offering support or assistance to workers who have problems with drugs or alcohol. Employee assistance programs refer to employee benefit programs that employers provide, usually alongside health insurance plans. Employee assistance programs help employees to access counseling for various issues like financial, substance abuse, or legal or mental health issues. 

Employee assistance programs can also address bad workplace performance that can arise due to drug or alcohol abuse. Another good thing is that they are a better alternative to dismissal, which can lower your legal vulnerability by showing your efforts to support the employees. Aside from referrals and counseling, most employee assistance programs offer related services like employee education and supervisor training. Therefore, a company should at least provide a resource file to workers that include treatment programs, information about community-based resources, and many more.

Drug testing

You can use drug testing to find out if a job applicant or employee is using prescription drugs, alcohol, or illicit drugs. There are several situations under which you may need to conduct a drug test.

One of the circumstances is pre-employment. With pre-employment testing, you can do it to prevent recruiting people who illegally use drugs. In most cases, it can happen after you make a conditional offer of a job. An applicant can then be tested as one of the conditions of employment and they may not be hired if they produce a positive test.

Another situation is reasonable suspicion. You should note that reasonable suspicion is quite similar to for-cause or probable-cause testing. You can do the drug testing when a supervisor documents observable signs that cause them to suspect drug use or even a violation of your drug-free workplace policy.

You can also do post-accident testing after an accident that may involve personal injury or property damage to help to determine whether alcohol or drugs were a factor. It’s crucial to establish an objective criterion that triggered a post-accident test, the way you may document it, and the person who will administer the drug test.

There is also random testing that you can conduct on an unpredictable and unannounced basis. In such cases, you need to randomly choose people from a pool of all workers. This type of drug testing can act as a deterrent as there is no advance notice.

Periodic testing is also quite common in workplaces and is usually scheduled in advance and conducted on all employees. There are some employers who use it annually, especially if the job requires physicals.  

Lastly, there is return-to-duty testing that is announced and is a one-time drug test you can do for an employee who tested positive and completed the required treatment for drug use. Such an employee is often ready to return to their duties. Some employers also utilize this type of drug testing for any worker who has not been to work for an extended period.

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Vineet Maheshwari is a passionate blogger and relationship oriented digital marketing consultant with over 10 years of experience in SEO, PPC management, web analytics, domain investing, affiliate marketing and digital strategy. He has helped high tech brands connect with customers in an engaging manner, thereby ensuring that high quality leads are generated over time.