Implementing, managing and maintaining a workplace drug and alcohol program can be a complex process, depending on the size and type of business. The process begins with a policy because the policy sets out why the program exists, who it applies to, what is considered unacceptable behaviour, and the consequences of non-compliance. However, beyond the mechanics of the policy is the fact that a workplace policy demonstrates organisational commitment to maintaining a substance free facility. Strength is added to the program by establishing a framework of expectations and accountability. Therefore, one of the biggest mistakes an employer can make is not instituting a drug and alcohol policy in the workplace.1
Avoiding typical mistakes in a drug and alcohol (D&A) program is critical because of the personal and legal aspects associated with the implementation of the policies and procedures. For example, random testing programs must be truly random and use a non-prejudicial method of selection. Otherwise, the employer could be accused of bias against a particular group of workers or of using the D&A program as a means of taking disciplinary action for matters not related to substance use.
No Favourites in a D&A Program with Integrity
An important characteristic of any D&A testing program is consistency. The policy sets out the rules, but consistency must also define the policy and testing procedures. For example, employees who test positive for drugs or alcohol should be treated in the same manner to preserve the program’s integrity. When some workers are given an opportunity to attend a rehabilitation program and then return to work, while others are immediately fired, the program loses its integrity.
Following clear, published guidelines ensures that workers know the precise steps that will be taken for positive tests, that everyone is treated equally, and that no favouritism is displayed. For example, the RML Group Mining Services clearly states when the disciplinary process and possible dismissal can be invoked. The situations include any worker removed from the workplace due to drugs or alcohol; testing positive for illegal drugs or any alcohol; refusing to be tested; or selling or giving illegal drugs to others.2 Some employers try to write policies and procedures that are vague so that they are not committed to particular actions. That is a mistake and will likely lead to formal worker complaints or lawsuits.
Consistency needs to apply across the board in drug and alcohol procedures. Workers suspected of being under the influence of substances should always be confronted by two people, so there is a witness to the conversation and events. A positive drug or alcohol test should always be confirmed with a follow-up test. Policies and procedures should always adhere to the law and respect agreements with unions.
Effective drug and alcohol programs are written, communicated, and consistently enforced. Common mistakes made by employers include not putting policies and procedures into writing, failing to inform workers about the D&A policy, and inconsistently testing or disciplining staff members. A D&A testing program does not have to be something for people to fear. It should just be one policy among many that are designed to maintain workplace safety.
Ensuring consistent D&A testing results is easy when using high quality equipment supplied by CMM Technology (http://cmm.com.au/). Saliva, urine and breathalyser testing equipment provide reliable results from samples easily obtained.
1 NSW Government, 31 May 2013) Workplace Policies and Procedures, Retrieved from Industrial Relations: http://www.industrialrelations.nsw.gov.au/oirwww/Employment_info/Managing_employees/Workplace_policies_and_procedures.page
2 Drug and Alcohol Policy, (2013) RML Group Mining Services, accessed at http://www.rmlgroup.com.au/Drug_and_Alcohol_Policy.