Content of Workplace Drug and Alcohol Education Programs: Teaching More Than Just Testing Procedures
If ordering employees to not use drugs or alcohol in the workplace was all it took to ensure a substance free workplace, employers would only need to issue a policy and inform people throughout the organisation. However, the content of the education and training program must include more than orders and more than a description of the drug and alcohol testing policy. An effective safety and health program, a component of which is the drug and alcohol policy and procedures, helps people develop the positive life skills needed to make the right decisions to minimise potential physical and mental harms. In that way, employees are more likely to embrace healthy lifestyles as a personal choice, making them far more likely to refuse to use substances in the workplace.
Drug and alcohol use is often not a simple one-time act. An employee is not likely to try illicit drugs or alcohol for the first time whilst at work. It is behaviour that occurs within the context of a person’s life and life occurs in and out of the organisation. With this understanding, employers promoting a substance free work life within their companies must present information on drugs and alcohol in a way that takes the broader context into account.1 For example, the drug and alcohol education program can include information on stress management and developing positive response strategies. Since workplace stress is associated with substance use in many cases, those who learn to recognise and manage stress are less likely to be tempted to respond to stress by using drugs and alcohol.
Staying Off the Road to Substance Abuse
A workplace health and wellness program teaches people living skills that apply to life in and out of the workplace. People need to understand behaviour patterns that lead to substance abuse. Stressful situations occurring at home or in personal lives may lead to substance abuse outside the workplace, but once addicted the use will spill over into the workplace. Providing information and skills in a workshop on managing all types of stress, and teaching wellness options other than turning to drugs and alcohol, encourages healthy lifestyles outside the workplace. The healthy lifestyles can spill over into the workplace just as easily as unhealthy ones. An employer can order employees to not use drugs or alcohol in the workplace, but that order does nothing to help people cope with life.
Employees should learn about the serious damage substance use and abuse can do to the body and mind. Addressing this topic naturally leads into how substance abuse impacts performance at work and whilst carrying out life’s duties, like driving or coping with difficult but typical situations such as financial difficulties at home or grief over the death of a loved one. Workshop instructors can talk about drinking at office events, leading into a discussion of alcohol abuse, in general, and the damage it causes lives. Workers should develop the skills to identify issues in their own lives that can increase the temptation to turn to drugs and alcohol as solutions. Often, people who abuse substances have serious life issues they are dealing with and even their co-workers are unaware of them.
Ethical Culture Encouraging Ethical Behaviours
Counsellors working with young people with alcohol or drug issues are taught to consider a range of issues that influence whether someone will use substances. They include ethical issues, values, accountability, and so on.2 The same applies to the workplace. Employers should promote a workplace culture of ethics which values employees who behave ethically. Effective programs will present training on the drug and alcohol testing program as essential to an ethical culture. Employees should make the right decisions, and that is influenced by attitudes, beliefs, expectancies, social competence, self-esteem, psychological well-being, and so on. Though employers must deal with personal employee issues as they impact job performance, there is not a clean dividing line between work and personal lives.
Making the drug and alcohol policy and testing program a component of a health and wellness program makes good sense. One of the steps in the process is explaining the type of sample collection and testing supplies used. CMM Technology (cmm.com.au) provides employers the highest quality saliva, urine, and breathalyser collection equipment and works closely with employers to ensure they thoroughly understand the testing process.
- Ken Pidd, Ann Roche & Michael White. (2011, October). Workplace Drug and Alochol Testing. Retrieved January 7, 2014 from NCETA and Flinders University: http://bit.ly/1fNqMUs.
- Australian Governement- Department of Health. Training Frontline Workers- Young People, Alcohol & Other Drugs, (2004). Retrieved January 7, 2013 from http://bit.ly/1jjSgV6