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Drug and Alcohol Policy Workplace: Its Importance and How to Develop One

16 February, 2024

A group of workers discussing while wearing safety equipment

Substance misuse issues can have detrimental effects on productivity, safety, and overall work performance. Hence, establishing a comprehensive drug and alcohol policy in the workplace is crucial to address these issues and prevent them from impacting the company. To develop one, companies can benefit from forming a policy development group with employees, management, and safety representatives. They should also conduct a risk assessment while gathering input from employees to ensure the policy addresses workplace alcohol and drug-related issues.

Alcohol and drug-related hazards are important issues that policies must address. Otherwise, they may not be able to fulfil their obligations to protect the safety of employees. One of the methods policies can help implement is alcohol and drug testing programs. They may use urine, saliva, blood, hair, or breath tests for accurate reports on substance misuse. This article will present the importance of workplace substance use policies, how to develop one, and the disciplinary actions to include.

Importance of Drug and Alcohol Policy in the Workplace

A drug and alcohol policy in the workplace is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it helps ensure the safety and well-being of the employees by identifying workers with substance abuse disorders. This is crucial because illicit substance use can cause various negative impacts on individuals and the organisation as a whole. Hence, companies benefit from implementing a comprehensive workplace policy.

Secondly, it helps deter people from drug and alcohol abuse. By outlining expected behaviours and prohibited activities, employees can fulfil their duties responsibly. Furthermore, strict implementation can help improve the reputation of the company as a safe and productive workplace. This can help to attract top talent and clients.

Lastly, a comprehensive company policy can help the company fulfil its obligations and mitigate legal liabilities. It is the responsibility of businesses to comply with relevant laws and standards. One is the requirement to provide a safe and healthy work environment for employees. Thus, establishing safeguards through the drug and alcohol testing policy can protect the company from legal challenges.

Understanding the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol on Employees

  • Uncontrolled consumption of alcohol, prescription medication, and illegal drugs leads to impairments, such as loss of motor control and judgment.
  • It can cause an increase in their rates of absenteeism and tardiness, which also lowers their job performance.
  • Being under the influence of alcohol and drugs during working hours increases the safety risks, resulting in more accidents, which can cause injuries and fatalities.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse can lead to financial problems due to excessive consumption of substances.
  • It can strain personal and workplace relationships as their dependency worsens.
  • Some may develop diseases from continuous use, such as kidney, heart, and liver conditions.

A group of workers discussing in an office

How to Develop a Drug and Alcohol Policy in the Workplace?

Developing a comprehensive drug and alcohol policy in the workplace can be a challenging process. Nevertheless, it is a crucial task, especially for businesses in high-risk industries. This includes those in mining, construction, and transportation industries. A policy should contain a clear statement. They must also cover the guidelines for testing, disciplinary measures, and education programs to increase awareness.

To develop the policy, a company should conduct a risk assessment. This can help identify specific items the policy should cover. The company may also include employee representatives and safety representatives alongside management representatives in the development group. This helps ensure the policy sufficiently addresses safety issues in the workplace culture. This will make it easier to incorporate into the existing workplace practices.

After completing the draft, they may send this to legal professionals and industry experts for input. Lawyers can provide legal advice and ensure that the alcohol and other drug policies comply with legislation and regulations. Meanwhile, industry experts can provide insight into practices contributing to an effective policy.

Policy Statement

A policy statement should communicate and outline the rules for substance use in the workplace. It should emphasise the commitment of the company to ensuring workplace safety and health through the policy. This is vital for maintaining a professional and productive work environment. It can also help improve the morale of workers.

Furthermore, the policy statement should state the expectations of employers regarding behaviours on company premises. By establishing clear prohibitions, employers can minimise workplace risks from the misuse of drugs and alcohol. Workers will also have clear instructions regarding prohibited activities, resulting in a safer workplace.

A supervisor handing a document to a stressed employee

Disciplinary Actions for Violating the Drug and Alcohol Policy in the Workplace

Drug and alcohol testing is a crucial part of a comprehensive drug and alcohol policy in the workplace. The policy may include urine, oral fluid, hair, blood, and breath tests to effectively trace substance use. These reliable testing methods enable businesses to prevent impaired individuals from causing accidents and identify those with substance use disorders.

Alcohol and drug test results can be negative, non-negative, or positive. Negative results indicate that no use was detected or the amount falls below the cut-off levels. Meanwhile, non-negative and positive results implicate a violation of the policy. Disciplinary measures can include warnings, suspensions, demotions, or termination of employment. It can vary depending on the severity or number of accrued breaches.

Many companies also require employees to undergo rehabilitation programs before returning to work. This is crucial for effective intervention and recovery of the individual. Moreover, providing adequate resources can help improve morale and promote a safe working environment. This can help improve their reputation and reduce employee turnover.

Treatment Programs and Resources

Companies may offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to support employees struggling with substance abuse. These programs provide access to confidential counselling, support groups, and treatment services from medical professionals. These can help employees address their addiction issues and help in their recovery efforts.

In addition to EAPs, companies should also provide educational programs to increase awareness about the risks of drug and alcohol abuse. This can include training sessions, workshops, or informational materials that educate employees on the dangers of substance abuse. Overall, providing treatment resources can prevent adverse impacts from substance misuse from affecting the company.

Conclusion

A comprehensive drug and alcohol policy in the workplace is crucial for protecting the safety of employees. This is important because substance use disorders cause significant harm to individuals and the organisations they work for. This is particularly true for those with safety-critical positions in high-risk industries. Furthermore, it is vital to ensure the company complies with its legal obligations. Hence, developing a policy needs careful consideration of various factors. They can also benefit from consulting lawyers and industry experts.

Conducting a risk assessment is ideal to identify workplace health and safety risks. Moreover, companies may find it beneficial to form a development group with employee, safety, and management representatives to ensure it is relevant to the current workplace culture. They must also cover the disciplinary measures for violating the policy. This can include suspensions, demotions, or dismissal. Lastly, they can establish EAPS to help workers with their rehabilitation.

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