Special Topics in Safety Management

What Your Drug and Alcohol Policy Must Cover

There are numerous scenarios in which organizations might want to administer employee drug tests. The key to staving off union grievances and employee lawsuits is a well-crafted drugs and alcohol policy. Here are some of the key points it needs to include.

Yesterday’s Advisor looked at a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report detailing the many roadblocks encountered by federal and state agencies trying to enforce trucker drug-testing rules. Not the least of those potholes is that agencies only  review the operations at 2 percent of motor carriers in a given year.

While some of the issues the report details are specific to the transportation industry, others – such as the ready availability of products that mask drugs in urine tests, lax procedures at drug testing centers, and inadequate employee background checks – apply across many other industries.

Does your drugs and alcohol policy comply with state and federal law? Do you even have one? If not, don’t fret. We do, and it’s already written and ready to use, along with every other safety policy you’re likely to need, in BLR’s new Essential Safety Policies. Examine it at no cost and with no obligation to purchase. Get details here.

Given that, under what conditions might your organization want to conduct drug tests? Yesterday, we looked at four scenarios detailed in the Labor and Employment Law Blog, including job applicant testing, testing employees in safety-conscious jobs, incident-driven drug testing, and post-accident investigation drug testing.

Other scenarios are:

  • Retesting of employees during and after rehabilitation: For obvious reasons,  this type of drug testing is fairly common.
  • Periodic drug testing with advance notice: This is most often seen for jobs involving stress, requiring physical endurance, or involving senior-level decision making.
  • Random, unannounced drug tests: This method is the most likely to catch drug users, according to the Labor and Employment Law Blog. However, it also is most likely to damage morale or prompt grievances or employee legal claims.

To limit your exposure to union grievances and employee lawsuits, though, it is essential that your organization have an up-to-date, legally compliant drugs and alcohol policy.

BLR’s best-selling new guide, Essential Safety Policies, spells out these legal points you should consider in creating one. These include:

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), requiring companies to maintain a workplace free of known hazards. Drugs aren’t specified, but a case for the dangers they present would not be difficult to make.
  • Benefits laws such as ERISA, and state insurance laws, may restrict your ability to fire an employee who is diagnosed as a substance abuser. Your policy would, therefore, need to be worded to offer these laws’ protections.
  • Federal and your state’s laws  may view the substance abuser as an individual with a disability. Accordingly, you may have an obligation to accommodate that person’s illness and your policy needs to take this into account.

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. Find out how.

Other things to consider in drafting your policy, according to Essential Safety Policies, include:

  • Prohibition of possession of drugs and related paraphernalia. Not only does your policy need to prohibit the use of illegal drugs or alcohol at work. It also needs to prohibit their possession, as well as that of related paraphernalia.
  • Searches. To discover unlawful drugs on your premises, your policy will need to state that you retain the right to inspect or search personal belongings, automobiles, and the like.
  • When to test. You need to specify the circumstances under which you require employees to undergo testing to determine whether they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • These are just a few of the more than 30 key points the book lists for a well-constructed- and legally compliant – drugs and alcohol policy. But there’s no need to then create a policy from scratch. There’s one already written for you in the Essential Safety Policies program. It’s one of dozens of safety-related policies included that, taken together, 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 under the major headings of Safety, Health, and Security.)

    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 a 30-day, no-cost, no-obligation, look at this program. Click here and we’ll be pleased to send it to you.