It’s alarming to learn that a United Nations report on worldwide drug use has revealed that Australia has the highest rates per capita of dangerous and illicit drug use in the world. Add to that the fact that nearly 70 per cent of drug users are actually employed full time. This should spur employers who haven’t created a drug-safe work environment just yet to finally make an effort to do so.
Creating a drug-safe work environment is necessary
Creating a drug-safe work environment is a must for employers. Aside from the sheer number of drug users who are actually employed, a quarter of all workplace accidents are drug related. Drug use is also being blamed for 10 per cent of workplace deaths. Even more disturbing is the fact that 80 per cent of drug-related workplace injuries involve not only the drug users that caused the accident, but non-drug using co-workers and bystanders.
Keeping workers safe in the workplace is a primary responsibility of employers. They are bound by Occupational Health and Safety laws to provide and maintain a safe working environment for their employees, and keep an eye on their health and safety as well. Creating a drug-safe work environment is a step in the right direction.
Develop a workplace drug policy
If you’re an employer and you already have a clear workplace drug policy in place, then you’re already on the right track. Make sure that when you develop drug and alcohol testing policies, everything should be spelled out in simple and easy to understand language, from workplace drug tests to consequences for testing positive for drugs. The workplace drug policy should also pass legal muster, so have your attorney pore through it to assure that ever
How to properly conduct drug testing
If random drug testing is an integral part of your workplace drug policy, make sure that you engage the services of an on-site organisation that is fully accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities or NATA. Such organisation should be able to provide you with a full spectrum of options and solutions.
Implement awareness campaigns
Workplace drug policies are next to useless if the workforce is not aware of their stipulations or even of their existence. One good way of introducing a workplace drug policy to workers is to conduct alcohol and drug education awareness workshops. You may also hold seminars that discuss the workplace drug policy in detail as well.
Train WHS managers or supervisors
Your managers and supervisors are absolutely essential personnel in the implementation of a drug-safe work environment. They are the ones who are constantly in touch with personnel, and are more likely to come across evidence of drug impairment in the workplace. While they are not expected to diagnose alcohol or drug abuse among employees or provide treatment or counselling services to them, they would have to learn to spot job performance problems that may have been caused by drug use or abuse. They may also be authorised to have alcohol and drug tests conducted on workers who may have been identified as drug users and need to take some time off to clean out their systems as part of a return to work process.
More stringent recruiting and induction process
An organisation will always aim to recruit the best possible people into its ranks, but lax hiring procedures have allowed regular drug users get into a company workforce, sometimes being assigned safety-sensitive jobs like operating heavy machinery or driving company vehicles. To make sure no drug user gets through, implement a more stringent recruitment process and induction process, and introducing a new staff to implement it can help in that regard.
Identify hot spots
Workplace drug screening needs to be as random as possible, but you need to establish a baseline to measure job performance and identify potential hot spots that need more focus. Conducting a blanket screen of all employees will do the trick. Once a baseline is established and hot spots are identified, an affordable and sensible random screening schedule can be implemented, and this schedule will focus on areas of the highest risk.
If you’re having second thoughts about creating a drug-safe environment, consider what a drug-safe workplace programme developed by Frontline Diagnostics, the largest workplace drug testing agency in Australia, managed to achieve when implemented at a workplace where workers were reported to be behaving dangerously and erratically. The programme accurately identified 100 per cent drug use within the workforce, forcing management to stand them down, and will only be allowed to return to work if they could show they are clean. This was achieved by four months of education workshops, blanket screening and introducing an induction process. Risk of drug-related accidents has gone down, and productivity has gone up.