Helping workers stay off drugs or quit using illicit drugs can be accomplished in a number of ways. Employers can play an important role because they have a front line advantage. Though drug and alcohol testing can be viewed strictly as a necessary step in keeping substances out of the workplace, testing can also be one component in a workplace program promoting good decision-making in areas of health. In other words, employees are encouraged to make good lifestyle decisions that impact general health. The employer benefits because healthy employees are more productive, take fewer sick days, and make fewer health insurance claims. Worker education programs that promote staying off drugs and avoiding excessive use of alcohol a lifestyle decision, in addition to eating healthy and getting regular exercise, make sense.
Positive Component of Broader Policy
All too often, employers and employees view drug and alcohol testing programs as stand-alone initiatives. They are not encapsulated in general workplace health and safety policies and procedures. Unfortunately, that approach contributes to the idea that alcohol and drug testing is a “catch-you” program rather than a positive company-wide approach to promoting good healthcare. Healthy lifestyles on all levels in personal lives equate to healthy lifestyles in the workplace in a number of ways that may not seem obvious at first glance.
- Co-workers do not support or protect fellow workers who are using drugs and alcohol in the workplace because they understand the implications in terms of potential injuries
- Employees are more likely to report safety hazards resulting from co-worker substance abuse because they are more aware of the dangers
- Employees are more supportive of the drug and alcohol testing programs because they can connect it to healthy lifestyles
- Job satisfaction is increased by creating a workplace environment that is perceived as supportive and caring
- Improves workplace morale by promoting a positive psychosocial work environment
- Reduces worker stress and anxiety and promotes a feeling of power and control because substance abuse is not tolerated
One of the issues associated with workplace substance abuse is the fact co-workers cover for other people. They do not want to be tattle-tellers or feel there will be repercussions as a result of reporting workplace substance abuse. Creating a substance free workplace is not always easy because drugs and alcohol have become so pervasive in society. However, achieving that goal benefits everyone – workers, worker families, employers, and communities.
Fitting the drug and alcohol policy and testing procedures into a healthy workplace program is not difficult. It begins with company-wide change initiatives that promote positive attitudes toward healthy practices and are supported by management practices that reinforce those attitudes.1 For example, many companies hold training workshops that teach safety and ways to avoid injuries. The sessions are supplemented with a reporting system that documents incidences, and the reports are analysed to determine if there are ways to prevent the same injuries from happening again. People under the influence of drugs and alcohol have a higher risk of incurring injury, and this information is incorporated into future workshops.
A drug and alcohol organisational change initiative can be approached in the same manner. Training sessions promoting a substance free workplace to teach people about the drug and alcohol policy and procedures are held. The sessions are supplemented with a reporting system that enables workers to confidentially report situations that they believe involve substance use in the workplace. However, the workshops can present the policy and procedures as a component of a larger healthy workplace program that ties substance abuse and increased injury rates together. In this way, each workshop addressing a healthy workplace initiative also reinforces a substance free workplace.
Proving Managerial Commitment
The benefits of having an open, integrated and well-transmitted set of policies and procedures are many. It shows a managerial commitment to workplace health and safety. A comprehensive health policy and program that includes a drug and alcohol component also shows there are expectations as to worker behaviours and personal responsibilities. Health and safety training promotes organisation-wide solutions to problems and holds everyone more accountable for their actions and the actions of co-workers.2 Business processes can be enhanced by improving worker productivity.
There are direct and indirect ways to discuss the dangers of substance abuse. Employers can directly talk about them in separate sessions and indirectly keep the information in the forefront by incorporating the information in other health and safety training sessions. A poster in the lunch room promoting a healthy diet or regular exercise can just as easily promote substance free living.
The drug and alcohol testing program can rely on quality drug test kits and alcohol tests from CMM Technology (cmm.com.au). Companies investing in reliable testing equipment prove their commitment to maintaining a healthy and safe workplace.
- WorkSafe. (2008). Guidance Note: Alcohol and Other Drugs at the Workplace. Department of Commerce – Western Australia.
- WorkSafe ACT. (2012). Making Your Small Business Safer & Healthier. Retrieved from ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety: http://bit.ly/18J2f2b