The role of front-line supervisors in detecting drug and alcohol abuse

Front-line supervision

Front-line supervisors spend more time with the workforce than any other level of management. They interface directly, on the job with employees. The main task of supervisors is to ensure that the work gets done by those reporting to them. They are held responsible for the productivity and behaviour of the employees reporting to them. Therefore, any action that affects these employees’ productivity and behaviour is of concern to the supervisor.

Drug and alcohol abuse/misuse is an increasing problem in Australia. In 1998 the cost to the economy was estimated at $16 billion and by 2004 the cost estimate was up to $24 billion. (Lauder, 2008). These costs are related to sickness, premature death, reduced productivity, crime and accidents. Drug and alcohol abuse/misuse affects the productivity not only of the employees themselves, but also of other employees.

Importance of training in drug and alcohol abuse/misuse for supervisors

In order to be effective in detecting drug and alcohol abuse/misuse supervisors need to be adequately trained. This training should include:

  • Company policy on drug and alcohol abuse/misuse
  • What is drug and alcohol abuse/misuse
  • Effects of drug and alcohol abuse/misuse in the workplace
  • How to detect drug and alcohol abuse/misuse
  • Company policy and practice in drug and alcohol testing

The role of drug and alcohol testing in the workplace

“Employee drug and alcohol testing is intended to ensure workplace safety, security and productivity.”

Employees who are under the influence of drugs and alcohol are a danger in the workplace; not only to themselves, but also to their co-workers. It is, therefore, important to test workers regularly. It is also important that this testing is done within the confines of the law and your company policy. You cannot just ask an employee to take a breathalyser test or collect a urine or saliva sample without several things being in place first. To learn how to collect samples correctly, register for the Workplace Based Certified Drug & Alcohol Collector – Nationally Accredited Training at CMM Technology. This training covers the following Australian Standards:

  • AS4308:2008 (Urine Drug Testing)
  • AS4760:2006 (Saliva Drug Testing)
  • AS3547 (Breath Alcohol Testing)

Guidelines for drug and alcohol abuse detection by supervisors

Supervisors need to look out for the following signs of drug and alcohol abuse/misuse:

  • Missed appointments, sick days, drunkenness or “on a high” on the job.
  • Relatives phoning in to explain why the employee is not at work.
  • Unexplained absences from work station.
  • Lack of tolerance of co-workers.
  • Irritability, restlessness, shakiness, trembling, sweating.
  • Regularly complaining of headaches.
  • Unexplained fatigue.
  • Not eating at lunch breaks.
  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Pupils larger or smaller than usual.
  • Sudden weight loss.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Coordination problems.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Seems paranoid for no reason.

If the supervisor suspects drug or alcohol misuse, the Drug and Alcohol policy of the company must be followed.

Conclusion

Drug and alcohol abuse/misuse can be a serious problem in the workplace and the front-line supervisor is in the ideal position to detect abuse/misuse. If equipped with the correct knowledge and skills the supervisor can detect drug and alcohol abuse/misuse at an early stage and can refer the employee for testing, counselling and treatment.

CMM Technology offers both saliva and urine-based drug testing products and an assortment of high quality alcohol breathalysers. We offer training and information on implementing these devices. For expert assistance on a quality workplace drug and alcohol testing solution,


Bibliography

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Melinda Smith, M. a. (2010, November). Drug Abuse and Addiction. Signs, Symptoms, and Help for Drug Problems and Substance Abuse. Retrieved January 09, 2011, from HELPGUIDE.org: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/drug_substance_abuse_addiction_signs_effects_treatment.htm

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