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HR Drug and Alcohol Policy: Definition and What Can Be Included

09 November, 2023

A lab technician holding a vial for testing

An HR drug and alcohol policy plays a vital role in ensuring a safe working environment for employees. Its scope may also include contractors and visitors who come to the workplace. Some items that companies may include in their policies are the objectives, effects of substance abuse, and testing protocols. Moreover, they may enforce sanctions for employees with non-negative results. Altogether, a policy should provide guidelines regarding the alcohol and drug consumption of workers.

Substance abuse has many adverse effects. These effects impact both individuals and the company alike. This is why companies benefit from establishing policies. Testing plays a valuable part in deterring misuse of drugs and alcohol. This may increase morale and productivity. Furthermore, it helps companies mitigate legal risks. This article will present what an HR substance policy is, the effects of substance abuse in the workplace, and the testing protocols included in a policy.

What is the HR Drug and Alcohol Policy

An HR drug and alcohol policy is essential for maintaining workplace safety and ensuring the well-being of everyone in the company. It helps maintain a healthy work environment and reduces workplace accidents. Substance abuse leads to many adverse outcomes for both employers and employees. This is why establishing a policy to address issues regarding drugs and alcohol is important.

The scope of such policies may include all employees, contractors, and visitors in the workplace. In addition, it may cover the use of alcohol and drugs both on and off company premises. It may include what the employer deems unacceptable behaviour during business hours or company events.

These policies are vital, especially to high-risk industries, to establish their stance on substance use. It may enforce a ban on alcohol in company premises. It may also create rehabilitation programs to help employees suffering from substance use disorder. Moreover, companies may include training and education about substance misuse issues. Lastly, employers must clearly outline the objective of implementing the policy.

Objectives of Implementing the Guidelines

  • Protecting employees and customers from substance abuse decreases the risks of accidents occurring. It also helps them avoid its adverse health effects on individuals. Policies help ensure a safe working environment.
  • To provide legal protection to the employer, companies must ensure the safety of everyone in the company. Thus, the absence of preventive measures like policies may lead to legal disputes. Altogether, these may become a costly expense to the company and ruin its reputation.
  • To comply with federal and state laws, high-risk industries must ensure the ability of their workers to carry out their duties to meet legal requirements.

A man falling from a high place at work

Identifying the Effects of Substance Abuse in the Workplace in the HR Drug and Alcohol Policy

An HR drug and alcohol policy should help prevent substance misuse issues. This is because substance abuse causes many adverse effects for employees and employers alike. Firstly, it increases the rates of absenteeism and tardiness among employees due to misuse of substances. Secondly, it causes tensions among coworkers due to increased irritability and behavioural issues.

Thirdly, misuse of drugs and alcohol affects physical and mental capabilities. This leads to lower productivity and morale. Furthermore, it may result in accidents that cause injuries or deaths. This may increase the employee turnover rate and limit company resources. In addition, it makes the workplace unsafe because intoxicated individuals are more prone to reckless behaviours.

Lastly, drug and alcohol-related incidents may cost employers large amounts due to medical and insurance expenses. Furthermore, damage to equipment and property is costly, especially in the long term. Thus, it is to the benefit of the company to establish strict protocols to deter substance abuse and prevent impaired workers from causing accidents.

Commonly Misused Substances

Various substances may cause impairment in workers. Alcohol is one of the most abused substances as it is part of many social-related activities. Many people indulge in binge drinking and end up overconsuming alcoholic beverages as a result. People also misuse medication. This includes over-the-counter medicines and prescription drugs.

Furthermore, illegal drugs are also commonly misused despite the prohibition around them. Marijuana is a psychoactive substance that comes from the cannabis plant. Meanwhile, cocaine is a stimulant drug made from the leaves of a coca plant. Lastly, heroin is a highly addictive opioid drug made from morphine.

A document for employee agreement and consent to testing with testing materials and a pen on top

Disclosing Testing Protocols in the HR Drug and Alcohol Policy

A crucial part of an HR drug and alcohol policy is the testing protocols. It must clearly outline when testing must occur, the types of tests to use, and how to handle the results. Companies must disclose this and gain consent from their employees. For many industries, testing may occur during pre-employment and if there is reasonable suspicion of intoxication. Furthermore, they may test randomly or after accidents or near misses occur.

Employers may use several methods of drug and alcohol testing. Some options include blood, hairurine, saliva, and breath testing. Some are more invasive and costly than others, but they all provide accurate and reliable results. Moreover, companies may use diversified testing to ensure the accuracy of reports or allow confirmatory testing to refute a positive result.

Lastly, employers need to handle the results with confidentiality. Only the worker and related staff should know about the results to maintain privacy. Furthermore, employers must give sanctions fairly to avoid possible legal problems, such as unfair dismissal claims.

Sanctions for Employees with Positive Results

Employees with positive results may face disciplinary action. This depends on the agreed-upon policies and applicable legislation. Employers may start with verbal or written warnings as the first consequences for employees. Written warnings leave documentation of previous violations and details regarding them.

Furthermore, a suspension is another sanction companies may use. Individuals may use this period to reflect on their actions and seek help. Lastly, the most severe disciplinary procedure is termination. Dismissal may occur due to consequent violations or large-scale incidents that result in harm. However, it is crucial to conduct confirmatory testing if the person insists on their innocence to prevent undue repercussions.

Conclusion

An HR drug and alcohol policy is crucial for industries to reduce safety risks and increase productivity. Substance abuse causes accidents, absenteeism, tardiness, additional costs, and high turnover rates. This is why companies must do their best to manage possible misuse among employees. This allows them to mitigate legal risks and ensure compliance with the relevant laws and regulations. They may do this by enforcing breath, urine, saliva, or blood testing.

Some of the most commonly misused substances are ethanol, prescription drugs, marijuana, and heroin. These may cause significant impairment and increase reckless behaviours in employees. Thus, it is crucial to enforce sanctions to emphasise their commitment to the policy. Furthermore, they may conduct tests regularly to deter substance misuse. Some companies may benefit from using BACtrack breathalysers to measure the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of employees before or during work.

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