Special Topics in Safety Management

Workplace Drug and Alcohol Abuse Programs: What Your Policy Must Say

The heart of any workplace drug and alcohol abuse program is the policy that establishes and controls it. From BLR’s new guide, Essential Safety Policies, here are some key points to include.

Yesterday’s Advisor began a discussion of workplace drug and alcohol abuse, which, despite the government’s decades-long war on drugs, drains business of more than $100 billion a year.  These costs come from lost productivity, vastly higher rates of absence than those of nonabusers, and workers’ comp claims many times as high.

The human cost, to co-workers, families, and the abusers themselves, is, of course,  immeasurably higher.

Fortunately, solutions are available. One of the most effective is a well-thought out drug and alcohol abuse-free workplace program. As we said yesterday, the heart of such a program is the policy you put in place to control how it works and whom it affects.

What must such a policy contain?  Here are some guidelines, from BLR’s new guide, Essential Safety Policies, among other sources.

The heart of an anti-abuse program is the policy you write. But you don’t need to write it. It’s already there to modify or use as-is, with all the other safety policies you’re likely to need, in BLR’s new and already best-selling Essential Safety Policies program. Try it on us. Click for info.

  • A prohibition of illegal drugs and drug or abuse-related items and actions, spelling out the meaning of such definitions as “controlled substances”, “drug paraphernalia”, and conditions such as “under the influence.” (Note that, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you may not simply ban all drugs in the workplace.)

  • Your policy on alcohol, which is a legal substance. You can, however, prohibit its consumption, or even its presence on premises, which includes use of company vehicles. Your policy should also spell out permitted uses, such as at social functions.

  • Limitations on legal, prescribed drugs, such as permitting only one day’s supply at a time, in original containers, taken per a doctor’s instructions. You also may reserve the right to consult with your own doctors as to whether prescribed medications could create hazards in a given employee’s specific job circumstances.

  • Enforcement Actions. This section of your policy must spell out your rights and procedures in ridding your workplace of illegal drugs and in controlling alcohol usage.

  • These include detailing your right to reasonably search employee lockers and other personal spaces, and to conduct medically-efficacious testing, both pre-employment and during tenure of employment, when such tests are advisable. This usually includes after an incident, or when an employee shows signs of impairment, but testing can also be random, as long as all employees are treated with equal fairness.

  • Penalties. This section should detail your right to remove from the premises and discipline proven abusers, right up to termination. It should also provide penalties for those refusing to be tested or to cooperate in investigations stemming from drug or alcohol abuse. Employee rights to counseling or use of an EAP should also be spelled out here. And, as in many policies, the concept of employment-at-will should be restated.   Be aware, however, that if your organization is unionized, the policy you write will be considered fair game for negotiation in the collective bargaining process.

  • A complete prewritten safety policies program

    Of course, if you would rather not have to write your own policy, there’s one already written in the BLR Essential Safety Policies program. It’s one of dozens of safety-related policies included. Taken together, they provide the makings of a ready-to-modify or use- as-is safety handbook for all your workers. The legally compiled and reviewed policies are grouped into three major areas:

    Get the safety policies you need without the work. They’re in BLR’s Essential Safety Policies program. Try it at no cost and no risk. Click to learn how.

  • Safety, including policies on PPE use, drugs and alcohol as detailed above, hazard communication, work rules, weather, fire and other emergencies, fitness for duty, and disciplinary procedures.

  • Health, including communicable diseases, required physicals, ergonomics, and workers’ compensation.

  • Security, including policies on visitors, portable electronic devices, contraband, workplace and domestic violence, among others. 

  • The policies are backed by a tutorial on policy writing and essential materials such as handbook receipts. There are some 279 pages of material in all in the book version. A CD version is also available.

    If your organization could benefit from supplementing (or perhaps having for the first time) a complete set of safety policies, we highly recommend taking a 30-day, no-cost, no-obligation look at this program. Click here and we’ll be pleased to send it to you.