Substance misuse in the workplace is a very real problem facing countless employers today. Far too many workers all over the world are showing up for work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and are causing problems that give employers headaches. So what exactly happens when workers misuse substances in the workplace?
They put themselves and their colleagues at risk
This is the primary concern of employers with regards to employees who misuse substances in the workplace. Drugs and alcohol can impair anyone who misuse them, and an impaired worker showing up for work could put themselves and any of their co-workers at risk, especially when they are assigned to safety-sensitive jobs like operating machinery or driving vehicles. Many of the accidents that happen in the workplace that cause injury and death are often brought about by employees working impaired.
Another consequence of substance misuse in the workplace that put people in harm’s way is when the user becomes violent. This is very common among people whose substances of choice include stimulants like cocaine and ice, as well as alcoholic drinks of any kind. These substances are known to make users become more aggressive, and it is not unheard of for physical altercations to take place in the workplace because of people who are under the influence of an addictive substance.
Work performance is affected
Substance misuse adversely affects one’s performance. A worker who misuses drugs or alcohol on a regular basis tend to find it hard to focus. Absenteeism is also a common result, as substance abusers are more likely to suffer a variety of health problems. The actual work itself suffers a dip in quality as the impaired worker typically commit errors, as well as display an inability to make smart decisions or judgments. It is not also uncommon for workers who misuse substances to take longer breaks than everyone else, which can also seriously affect their productivity.
Costs to employers will skyrocket
It is a fact that substance misuse in the workplace costs employers untold billions every year. With the accidents caused by impaired workers, employers will have to frequently pay for Workers Compensation and disability claims. There’s also the cost of having to replace a suspended or sacked worker because of substance misuse. Finding suitable replacements and the entire hiring process cost money, and it’s a cost that an employer shouldn’t have to face had that employee not been impaired at work. Also, employers are often burdened by unfair dismissal lawsuits filed by these sacked workers. Although courts often uphold dismissals of employees because of drugs, the cost of litigation is something employers can do without.
It goes without saying how important it is for employers to develop drug and alcohol testing policies in the workplace. With such a policy in place, an employer will have the legal right to address any substance misuse concern in the workplace in accordance with that policy. Implementing that policy strictly is of utmost importance, because doing so would be in the best interest of both employers and employees.