Businesses develop a myriad of goals that range from increasing diversity in the workforce to achieving profit goals. These goals are achieved through the implementation of supporting policies and procedures and the dedicated effort of a talented workforce. It takes a myriad of policies and procedures to address the goals, and some are limited in scope and target particular people or departments. For example, the credit and collections policy and procedures are designed to help the company achieve an accounts receivable collection goal. However, there are also policies and procedures that are more pervasive, in that they contribute to the workplace culture and the company-wide goals, as opposed to department goals. Drug and alcohol policies and procedures fit this category because they impact the entire organisation and its stakeholders and are not limited to a particular department or function.
Drug and alcohol policies and procedures are critical to workplace safety and health, and that impacts everyone in the organisation. They are proof of a commitment to the welfare of all stakeholders. Stakeholders are defined as people who are affected by or can have an effect on a business effort or who have a strong interest in the effort, even if not directly connected to it or the company. What can be overlooked in terms of the benefits conveyed by drug and alcohol policies and procedures is that stakeholders include employees, the Board of Directors, customers, investors, competitors, funding organisations, and the general public. Though non-customers do not conduct business with the company, they are put at risk in a number of ways when employees use drugs and alcohol, thus turning people outside the circle of business operations into stakeholders also.
Reaching Out to the Community
Workers impaired by substance use or abuse are more likely to have vehicle accidents, make consumer product production errors, put family members at risk of harm, and overburden the national legal and health care systems. These are harms occurring outside the business and in the general community. Businesses that earn a reputation for tolerating substance abuse, have no drug and alcohol policies, or have a high rate of incidences involving employee drug and alcohol abuse will harm their brand image in the marketplace. In other words, drugs and alcohol have a reach that extends far beyond the employees. That reach extends out into the community, making substance abuse a business, social, legal and economic issue.
As such, drug and alcohol policies must contribute to organisational goals in the broadest and not narrowest sense. Employers owe a responsibility to workers and to the public to provide the safest workplace possible, which means taking all reasonable steps to ensure risks are controlled as much as possible. A failure to develop a drug and alcohol policy or to perform random employee testing is a failure to implement reasonable steps to develop the safest possible workplace.1 This perspective is different from the perspective that views drug and alcohol polices and testing as optional.
Large corporations acknowledge that safety is a matter of stakeholder interests. Mobil Refining Australia defines safety as a core value of the organisation and a “shared value that shapes decision-making all the time, at every level, in everything we do.”2 The company seeks to prevent incidents from happening that could harm the refinery personnel, contractors, and the local community. Mobil Refining sees safety as an issue workers must take personal responsibility for and the safety policy stresses, “to all employees, contractors, and others working on its behalf their responsibility and accountability for safe performance on the job and encourage(s) safe behaviour off the job.”
Note that workers are asked to exhibit safe behaviour on and off the job. The Drug and Alcohol Policies are in place to send a clear message that the company sees substance abuse as a safety issue that can threaten the safety of “employees, others involved in its operations, customers and the public,” or in other words, all stakeholders.
Drug and alcohol policies protect businesses and the people they serve and interact with on a daily basis. CMM Technology at http://cmm.com.au/ offers consulting services in areas of drug and alcohol policy development for testing practices as a component of risk management systems.
1 Placing Workers in Safe Workplaces. (2006, June). Retrieved from Worksafe – Victoria Government: http://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/10082/placing_labour_hire.pdf
2 Mobil Altona Refinery – Safety Case Summary 2012. (December 2012). Retrieved from ExxonMobil – Australia: http://www.exxonmobil.com/Australia-English/PA/Files/publication_safetycase_altonaref.pdf.