Each drug and alcohol program must be developed so that it provides a good fit for the organisation. Though the broad, basic elements of a program may be the same from program to program, the specifics of the program are influenced by factors like the organisational culture and environment, social interactions, and structure. For example, a drug and alcohol program for an office will vary from a program designed to accommodate a business with multiple locations. A business that has many workplace social functions where alcohol is served will need to carefully articulate the circumstances under which employee alcohol consumption in moderation is allowed and then define moderation.
The variances between programs recognize that each business has different styles of operation depending on its mission. A construction company that requires the operation of heavy equipment and power tools will need to outline a drug and alcohol policy that specifically includes safety issues related to equipment operation. The same company will need to specifically address the issue of mixing illicit drugs or alcohol with potentially hazardous job duties like working at high levels. In companies where exposure to toxic fumes is a possibility, which includes office workers, the organization specific drug and alcohol training program can include a special section on the dangers of “huffing” chemicals and the potentially fatal reactions of mixing drugs and alcohol with or without in-house chemicals.
Safety Sensitive Links
The disciplinary actions enforced when workers test positive for drugs or alcohol can also be organisation specific. Some jobs are so safety-sensitive that any violation leads to immediate suspension and required completion of a rehabilitation program before return to work. The aeronautics industry is an excellent example. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) developed a drug and alcohol response program that states a person with a confirmed positive test is not allowed to perform safety sensitive aviation activities (SSAA) until the person completes a series of steps. First, a comprehensive assessment is completed which includes both physiological and psycho-social indicators. Second, a drug or alcohol intervention program has to be completed if the assessment indicates it is necessary. Third, the person must be medically released to return to SSAA. Finally, the person must receive a negative test result for drugs and alcohol.1 Only after completing these four steps is a person allowed to return to work.
The greater the safety sensitivity of positions, the more stringent the policies and procedures must be. Airline pilots, nurses, miners, engineers, truck drivers, and many more professionals have the health and wealth being of others depending on their ability to do their job. The Australian government allows the designation of safety sensitive positions that are tested for substances more regularly than other positions for this reason. The types of positions will naturally vary from industry to industry. CASA defines safety sensitive positions as those “linked to both the safety operation of aircraft and the safety of individuals in and around aircraft.” Baggage handlers fit the definition while reservationists do not, so they would be randomly tested instead.2
Match the Program to the Business
People who are employed in positions with responsibility for managing other people’s assets may not fall under the legal definition of safety sensitive, but they certainly need to be substance free to do a good job. For example, no one wants a professional financial planner deciding when to buy and sell stocks while mentally confused due to substance abuse or needing additional commissions to support a drug habit. There is little risk of physical injury but a high risk of financial harm to others.
One of the best practices for workplace drug testing is targeting safety-sensitive work roles.2 However, that is just one component of an effective program because random testing of all positions reduces the risk of harm in many ways. Employers must be careful that their drug and alcohol testing programs take into consideration the particular functions performed by workers and are effective at promoting a substance free workplace within the structure of the business.
Mediscreen (mediscreen.net.au/) offers onsite and offsite screening for drugs and alcohol. The experienced testing company works across industries and can contribute expert advice to employers interested in initiating or strengthening their drug and alcohol program.
This article has been taken from http://mediscreen.net.au/articles/?p=2271