“If we drug tested our workers, we would lose half our workforce!”

A response I often hear from prospective clients when confirming if they have a Drug and Alcohol policy and procedural document in their business.

Let’s get serious; what individuals do in their own time is not the business owners’ responsibility; what the workers do when they are working in the business is. One of the most overlooked aspects of health and safety in the workplace is the fact that both the Employer and the Worker has a Duty of Care. The Employer has a responsibility to identify risks in their workplace and either eliminate or minimise the associated risk. The Worker has a responsibility to follow instruction from the employer and present themselves Fit for Work which means they too take on a responsibility to making a workplace safe from harm.

When it comes to Fitness for Work where Drugs and Alcohol may be involved, statistics tell us that this costs business in excess of $6 Billion per annum in lost productivity alone. When injuries happen due to Drug and Alcohol impairment, we know on average that 8 of 10 injuries involving impairment the injured party is not the person impaired. Another frightening statistic is that 70% of regular drug users are employed. So, the important message for business owners is that on average, almost 1 out of every ten workers come to work at some time in there working life impaired due to Drugs and Alcohol.

Despite popular belief, introducing a Drug and Alcohol policy and the procedure is NOT about sacking Workers. Finding good workers is a complicated and expensive process for any business. If through the monitoring of a well-compiled Drug and Alcohol program an individual is identified as being impaired and possibly does have a problem with substance abuse, this in many cases provides the opportunity for the Worker to make a change to their lifestyle. It is at this point the individual chooses whether the job is more important than their drug/alcohol habit. If they decide to make a lifestyle change, this can lead to a more engaged worker, more productive worker and a more loyal worker in return for you assisting and supporting them through a difficult time of their life. If they choose not to make a lifestyle change them, you as the employer have probably avoided a future problem. That individual will move on and find an employer that does not have a Drug and Alcohol policy and become their problem.

Recently I tested a worker, (a Supervisor in a bustling service area) within a manufacturing company, and they returned a non-negative test that was confirmed positive for Methamphetamine (Ice). The Worker then admitted his use to his employer. To the employer’s credit, they stood the worker down for four weeks while the problem was being sorted out. They, in turn, strongly recommended that the Worker seek professional assistance to deal with his addiction. He did so and invested in himself. Following his 4 weeks leave I conducted a return to work test and was thanked by the worker, who explained that during the 4 weeks he had undertaken a lot of lifestyle choices, he broke up with his long term partner (who did not want to give up drugs), has reconnected with family and more importantly his children, who did not want anything to do with him while they had been on drugs!

The worker them returned to work, and although the organisation had kept and maintained his privacy, the person decided to share this with all the workplace. Everyone in the company had welcomed him back and have helped him in any way they can to ensure he remains clean. The worker admitted that this was and had been the toughest time of his life but was extremely grateful that they had been given another chance and thanked me again. This only further demonstrates the fact that a Drug and Alcohol policy goes well beyond the WHS requirements and can and does assist individuals in changing their lives for the better.

Of course, the worker needs to want to get help in the first place and how many chances do we give the worker? Formulating a Drug-Safe Workplace approach is a good start, that is your Drug and Alcohol Risk management policy, at Drug-Safe Workplaces, we are specialists in this, so we don’t write policies on any other WHS area.

It would be accurate to say that most businesses do not have a compliant Drug and Alcohol policy and procedure in place. Many have a paragraph or two in their employment packs stating that Drug and Alcohol are not permitted in the workplace, which is common sense, but if you want to act upon a suspicion and or test your workers then a few paragraphs simply does not cut it and or protect you as the employer from an unfair dismissal.

A policy statement re Drug and Alcohol is precisely that, a statement. Employers are expected to have a procedure setting out how it will manage the risks of Drugs and Alcohol in their workplace.  How and when the workers can be tested. What you are testing for. How are you going to test me? Who is going to test me? What happens if I test positive? What happens if I refuse a test? And the list goes on. Then there is the area of educating staff and ongoing monitoring of your risk policy regarding Drugs and Alcohol.

We often come across companies that don’t want to advertise they are having their workers tested, they feel that this is a negative reflection and a stigma rather than seeing this a benefit and something to be proud of Being a Drug Safe Workplace is very appealing to potential workers, potential business partners to name just a few. Another intangible aspect is that is you advertise this fact when recruiting and ask the prospective worker to have a pre-employment Drug test before joining you can potentially avoid a problem from even entering your business, potentially saving thousands of dollars in training and replacement costs is they leave due to a drug habit.

This is why Drug-Safe Workplaces have a certified Drug-Safe Workplace program, by having the certified program on your website telegraphs to everyone that you meet the criteria in having a robust and dynamic drug and alcohol policy, have a policy ‘roll-out’ and education program and a regular testing program in place conducted by an accredited Drug-Safe Workplaces Team member. We always ensure that you are up to date with changes in legislation and or new standards and provide annual audit compliance review. If your organisation is tendering for a contract, advertising for new staff, or want everyone to know you are meeting a high-quality standard framework, this certification program will work for you!

Drug-Safe Workplaces will work with you and your business to create a Drug-Safe Workplace. We will not only work for you, but we will also work and partner with you, taking away the extra task of managing the risks associated with maintaining the Dangers of Drug and Alcohol in your workplace.

If you would like to find out more about how Drug-Safe Workplaces can assist you and your business in this complicated area give Andy a call on 1300 546 105 or email andy.truscott@drugsafe.com.au

About the author:

Andy Truscott (A/dip WHS, Dip Leadership and management, Cert IV TAE) Director Drug-Safe Workplaces (DSW) Gold Coast and Tweed Heads, has been working in DSW for over 18 months. With more than 20 years in WH&S and Leadership roles in State Government, Not for Profit and Private Enterprise during his career. Andy incorporates essential safety factors to increase awareness amongst all levels of workers to understand how important it is that we all have the right to be safe at work.

Make your Business a Drug Safe Workplace!