December 8, 2020

Drugs & Alcohol in the Workplace

Training employees on the effects of drugs and alcohol in the workplace is critical to maintaining workplace safety and preventing costly problems such as absenteeism, lost productivity, injuries and increased health insurance claims. With more states legalizing marijuana, it’s important to send a strong message to employees that your organization maintains a safe, drug free workplace and that compliance is everyone’s responsibility.

From opioids to alcohol, prescription medications to recreational drugs, employee impairment at work is a serious issue. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), more than 70% of adults with a substance use disorder are in the workforce. The US Department of Labor estimates that drug and alcohol misuse causes 65% of workplace accidents.

US companies lose more than $100 billion a year to employee alcohol and drug-related misuse, according to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI). In addition to deaths and accidents, absenteeism and lost productivity, substance use can cause other on-the-job problems, including:

  • Tardiness/sleeping on the job
  • Hangover or withdrawal affecting job performance
  • Poor decision making
  • Loss of efficiency
  • Theft
  • Increased trouble with co-workers/supervisors or tasks
  • Preoccupation with obtaining and using substances while at work
  • Illegal activities at work including selling illicit drugs to other employees
  • Higher turnover

Marijuana legalization is spreading throughout the US

In November, voters in four states legalized recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21. New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota join a total of 15 states that have legalized recreational cannabis. Meanwhile, Mississippi and South Dakota voted to join 34 other states backing the use of medical cannabis.

With medical and recreational marijuana accessible to most Americans, training employees on cannabis’ risks and how to spot impairment becomes more urgent. Just because marijuana use is legal in certain states doesn’t mean it’s allowed in the workplace.

Implement drugs & alcohol training

Workplace culture plays a significant role in whether drinking and drug use are accepted and encouraged or discouraged and prohibited. Organizations large and small should have a workplace substance misuse policy and regularly train employees on the risks of using legal and illegal substances at work. Training raises employee awareness of what substance misuse is and the workplace safety risks arising from both legal and illegal substances. By teaching employees to recognize the warning signs of a substance misuse problem and constructive ways to respond, organizations can reduce workforce risks and get employees the resources and help they need.

An effective training program should:

  1. Provide a basic understanding of what substance misuse is and why it presents workplace safety issues.
  2. Reinforce expectations that all employees are free of the adverse effects of drugs and alcohol at work, at work-related activities and while traveling to or from work. 
  3. Cover the drug and alcohol testing policies of your organization and industry testing requirements where applicable.
  4. Review prohibited conduct while working or on work premises including possessing, using and being under the influence of drugs and alcohol, as well as selling, buying and distributing drugs and drug paraphernalia. 
  5. Address disciplinary actions, up to dismissal, for breaking your organization’s drug and alcohol rules, including the refusal to take a mandated drug test, or testing positive for a hard drug, such as cocaine. 
  6. Identify the warning signs of someone who may have a substance misuse problem and list the steps to take if you observe them.

Traliant Insight

Substance misuse at work impacts safety, productivity and quality and increases the risk of harassing behaviors and other misconduct that can damage an organization’s reputation and workplace culture. Drugs and alcohol in the workplace training is essential to an organization’s efforts to raise awareness and send a strong message that maintaining a safe, drug free workplace is everyone’s responsibility.

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