Practical steps for dealing with substance misuse in the workplace
What is substance misuse?
Substance misuse (or abuse) is defined as the sustained use of any mind-altering substance. This includes legal substances like solvents and alcohol as well as illegal drugs. Through this continued use the user’s physical and mental health are severely affected. The misuse of substances in the workplace can cause issues such as increased absenteeism, low productivity and create an unsafe working environment.
It is estimated that between 3% and 5% of all work absences are due to alcohol abuse and that 1 in 30 employees has had drugs in their system at one time in the workplace. All employers have a legal responsibility to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees and so statistics like this cannot be ignored.
What can employers do?
As an employer it is important that measures are taken to protect all employees and the company from potential dangers. To do this employers should:
- Introduce a comprehensive drug and alcohol policy. This lets all stakeholders know exactly where the company stands on substance misuse and shows that you are being proactive in your approach.
- Conduct drug and alcohol testing. Utilising random and/or with cause testing can help quickly identify any substance misuse issues. Consider including a contractual obligation for employees to co-operate with this.
- Train staff to identify the signs of substance misuse. Make everyone aware of the issue and give them the ability to look for the key signs. This can only help increase safety.
- Keep up-to-date with the latest legislation. The laws on substance misuse can change quite quickly, especially as new substances like legal highs are identified and re-classified. Ensure you are aware of the latest changes.
- Support employees. Addiction or frequent misuse of substances should be treated the same way as other health issues. Offer support to your employees and help them make a quick return to work.
The above steps can help better manage the issue of substance misuse in the workplace. Effectively communicating the company’s stance on this issue to employees brings clarity and lets everyone know where they stand.
Randox Testing Services
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