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19 Drug-Free Workplace Tips for 2019

(Winter 2018) Tis the season of lists.

Shopping lists … gift lists … to do lists … resolutions … goals … you get the point.

But even though we tend to have a lot of lists in our lives, they are there because they help keep information organized, are easy to review and reference and, depending on the list, satisfying to cross things off once completed.

So, in the spirit of the season, here are 19 drug-free workplace tips for 2019.

Start with your drug-free workplace policy

Your drug-free workplace policy and operation documents are the core of your program. Paying attention to these will help make sure you have a solid foundation from which to make decisions and act:

  1. Make sure your policy is thorough and up-to-date: When was the last time you updated your policy? Does it address all institutional approaches or changes that have occurred since it was implemented/last updated? For example, does it address the use of marijuana as it relates to any state laws you’re subject to? Do you address the use of alcohol at company-related social events? Are you actually following all elements in your documents? (If not, change your practice or change your policy.)
  2. Create a system to keep track of precedents set: No policy or operational documents can address every situation that can occur with your drug-free workplace program. Any decision made, that is not explicitly covered in your policy, should be documented. This way if the same situation occurs again, your organization can respond in a consistent manner.
  3. Reference your reasonable suspicion flow and checklist: Don’t just use these tools when obvious instances of stumbling or staggering happen. Reasonable suspicion can apply to situations that occur over an extended time (e.g., patterns of absenteeism, decreased work performance), not just on an acute basis.

Be familiar with your drug-testing procedures

Drug testing is a scientific, objective way for organizations to enforce a drug-free workplace program. It is also considered search and seizure by the Supreme Court. Therefore, it is important that you know the ins and outs of how your drug-free workplace program uses this tool:

  1. Know what you are testing for: It’s easy to set the list of substances your company will test for and forget about it. However, it is important to make sure you are testing for the substances you are required by an authority to test for (e.g., Department of Transportation), those that have a high rate of misuse in your geographic area. Don’t assume your drug test will find all possible illicit or misused substances. For example, many standard 5- or 9-panel drug tests do not include frequently misused prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. Reach out to your drug testing vendor for written confirmation of what you are testing for to assure it matches your preferences.
  2. Understand your company’s definition of an accident: Sending an employee for a post-accident drug test can be a gut reaction after an incident occurs. But, before you do, make sure the incident meets your company’s definition of an accident, e.g., was someone injured needing medical attention beyond first aid, did damages exceed a pre-determined dollar value? Next, consider what you know about the cause of the accident and whether operationally your program requires a test. If the incident or circumstances don’t, then no test. And if either your current accident definition or operational approach no longer suit your company’s approach to your drug-free workplace program, consider updating it.
  3. Integrate drug-free workplace policies with accident reporting policies: Review your accident reporting policy to make sure it aligns with and supports your drug-free workplace policy (and vice versa). For example, your policy may say that if an accident isn’t reported in a timely manner it will be considered a refusal to test. This could be a difficult procedure to follow it your accident reporting policy does not define “timely” or identify what information needs to be reported and to whom that report should be made.
  4. Post-accident alcohol testing is not a given: Sending that employee for a post-accident drug test is one thing, but a post-accident alcohol test is completely different. An alcohol test is considered a medical exam and, therefore, different standards need to be satisfied before it can be administered. Be sure your policy documents and your management know the appropriate approach around handling alcohol testing.
  5. Involve the program administrator (PA) when there is an accident: This helps to ensure your program is administered consistently. It also helps make sure a test that shouldn’t happen, e.g., doesn’t meet your organization’s definition of an accident or operational requirements, does not automatically happen.
  6. Random testing percentages are for the year: Authorities, like the Department of Transportation and the Drug-Free Safety Program, that require a specific percentage of your workforce be randomly drug tested are calculating the number on an annual basis, not monthly or quarterly. Double check what you are required to do and adjust as needed to save time and money.

Don’t overlook employee education and supervisor training

Employees can’t follow a program if they don’t understand what is expected of them. Education and training provide employees the foundation they need to help your drug-free workplace program run smoothly:

  1. Have a plan to educate new employees and train new supervisors: Most places have plans in place to conduct yearly education and training, but it can be easy to overlook educating and training new employees ad supervisors. Consider adding a section to your on-boarding process to make sure your new hire is caught up with the rest of your team.
  2. Supervisors need to attend employee education sessions: While your supervisors have extra responsibilities regarding your drug-free workplace program, they are employees, too. It is important they get the same foundational knowledge that all employees receive in addition to training on their specific roles within your program.
  3. Tailor employee education and supervisor training sessions: Your drug-free workplace program involves more than just testing. When planning your sessions consider other aspects of your program that your workforce could benefit from learning about. For example, as drug test positivity rates for cocaine and methamphetamine continue to climb, it might be helpful to impart some knowledge about these drugs.

Go a step further with assistance

Having a resource to turn to when an employee needs assistance is part of a best-practice drug-free workplace program. However, these services can also have benefits outside of your drug-free workplace program, but only if they are used:

  1. Research community-based resources: If you are using community-based resources for assistance, do your homework up front and have a list of local service providers and their contact information. Then share it! Put that list in the break room, email it out, post it with other company notices and resources. Also, consider contacting the provider ahead of time to learn more about what and how services are provided.
  2. Maximize Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and/or community-based resources: Having an EAP or access to community-based resources is one thing. Encouraging your employees to make use of these services is another. Bringing in representatives from these organizations for a brown-bag presentation at lunch time can be one way to make sure your employees know about these resources.

Take into account the odds and ends

Some aspects of running a drug-free workplace program are easier to remember than others. Here are a few less obvious items to consider:

  1. Have a program administrator transition plan: Institutional knowledge is lost when people leave the job. Help your new PA by ensuring they receive the training and orientation needed to smoothly transition into their role coordinating your program.
  2. Have a support person/team: Everyone needs someone to have their back, PAs included. Make sure your PA has identified a key person(s) in the organization (owner, CEO, business leader, HR partner, etc.) who cares about the program as much as they do that can provide empowering support to the PA and who is willing to assist with navigating through tough situations.
  3. Keep track of your paperwork: Do you need to complete annual reports as part of your drug-free workplace program? Create a way to easily keep track of everything you need to report on as the year progresses. This will make completing the reports easier.
  4. Take advantage of opportunities to educate about prescription medication: The day an employee returns to work from a hospital stay or another injury or illness is a good day to remind the employee about your prescription and over-the-counter rule in your drug-free workplace program. Reminders are good, but make sure you know what you can say and what you can’t (i.e., raise awareness about medication issue, inform instead of asking what they’re taking).
  5. When in doubt call for help: Working Partners® staff is here for you. Give us a call if you have questions or need guidance. It’s always easier to seek help in the beginning than to try to backtrack.

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DISCLAIMER: This publication is designed to provide accurate information regarding the subject matter covered. It is provided with the understanding that those involved in the publication are not engaged in rendering legal counsel. If legal advice is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.