Special Topics in Safety Management

Two Big Substance Abuse Policy Mistakes

Is your substance abuse policy effective? If the policy isn’t doing the job, you could be in for trouble.

According to Attorney Mark A. de Bernardo, Esq., of Jackson Lewis LLP, employers often make mistakes in their substance abuse policies that render the policies ineffective and leave their organizations vulnerable to litigation. He cites two common mistakes.

Policy Mistake #1: Failure to effectively lay out the penalties for a policy violation

To have a deterrent effect, employees have to get the message. Your policy is not effective if people don’t know about it. The message is: “We strive to maintain a drug- and alcohol-free workplace. If you don’t … you’re out.”

Too many employer policies, says de Bernardo, ring hollow, with no clear message, no threat, no clearly stated reason to take it seriously, and no accountability. Therefore, the deterrent impact is diluted.

He says that a policy like this one has teeth:

Any violation will/may result in adverse employee action up to and including dismissal and may result in referral to criminal prosecution

Establishing strategic safety goals to drive excellent safety performance can be a very tricky business. BLR’s upcoming live webinar will help you avoid pitfalls and select and set goals that will take your safety performance to the next level. Click here for details..

De Bernardo suggests putting the penalties statement close to the beginning of the policy, prominent, and with an uncompromising we-mean-business tone.

Policy Mistake #2: Letting employees who should be fired for other reasons off the hook because of a substance abuse policy violation

Employees who deserve to be fired should be fired, says de Bernardo. A drug or alcohol “problem” should not be used/misused to save their jobs. So often an employer, in good faith, refers a troubling, under-performing employee for a “for-cause” test when there is a substantial basis for discharge independent of the substance abuse problem. The “good faith” can come back to haunt the employer.

De Bernardo advises managing substance abusers as you would normally manage any other employee with performance or behavior problems. Don’t save embezzlers, timesheet liars, poor performers, and no-shows, he says, simply because they may have—or claim to have—a substance abuse problem.

Join us on April 22 for an in-depth webinar on selecting and setting safety goals that will provide a tested process that will help your organization achieve world-class safety performance. Learn More.

World-Class Safety Performance

Establishing strategic safety goals can be a very tricky business. Most safety managers immediately default to such things as “zero incidents” or use industry benchmarks to quickly provide something to senior management.

The process would be much more successful if safety managers took a step back to decide exactly what is meant by “selecting and setting strategic safety goals.” As a well know author, Marty Rubin, once wrote, “When the meaning is unclear, there is no meaning.”

When establishing goals, it is important to identify those measures that are characteristic of a good program. They must emphasize activities that are needed to meet the goals. A common downfall is to develop broad-ranging goals with no clear understanding of the activities that impact the outcomes.

Taking time to define your terms and agree on the meaning is an important first step in any project, especially setting safety goals for the long term. If this step is done properly, you may actually end up with some viable goals that will stand the test of time—and maybe even take your safety program to the next level.

Keep in mind, too, that OSHA has had an ongoing voluntary program to encourage companies to establish a safety and health management program, which includes setting specific goals and objectives. Also, world-class safety programs almost always have clear, strategic short-, mid- and long-term goals and objectives that are understood by all levels of the organization and tracked and communicated. In many cases, performance to these goals and objectives is part of the compensation process.

Join us for an in-depth webinar on April 22. The presenter, a seasoned professional who has guided many companies through a productive safety goal and selection process to achieve world-class safety performance, will provide a tested process that will help you achieve similar results.

You and your colleagues will learn:

  • Why defining your terms and agreeing on the meaning is the critical step
  • What safety excellence is and why it must be defined and measured by what is collectively done to reduce risk exposure
  • Six essential key questions you should be asking to establish successful strategic goals and objectives o What does safe mean for your organization?
  • Who to involve in the goal process and why all stakeholders need to be active participants
  • The two most important objective and goal categories to consider—incident and injury prevention and the creation of safety culture excellence
  • The recommended process to follow in setting your strategic safety goals
  • How should you measure, track, and communicate your identified goals to monitor forward progress
  • How to respond when overall performance may be lagging

About Your Speaker

Shawn M. Galloway is the President of ProAct Safety and coauthor of two books, his latest is STEPS to Safety Culture Excellence. As an internationally recognized safety excellence expert, he has helped hundreds of organizations within every major industry to achieve and sustain excellence in performance and culture.

Mr. Galloway has recently been listed in National Safety Council Top 40 Rising Stars, EHS Today Magazine’s 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS and ISHN Magazine’s POWER 101ÑLeaders of the EHS World. In addition to the books, Mr. Galloway has authored over 300 podcasts, 100 articles and 30 videos on the subject of safety excellence in culture and performance. He is also the host of the highly acclaimed weekly podcast series, Safety Culture Excellence and a columnist for several magazines.

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