Drug and Alcohol Abuse

An employee’s work performance and behavior may be affected when they are working under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Employers are responsible in minimizing the instances of an employee being influenced by alcohol or drugs.

Risk factors

Work environments and the type of work greatly affect the safety risks of employees under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Possible aspects that may encourage the harmful use of alcohol and drugs are:

  • Culture of the workplace
  • High stress conditions
  • Workplaces in remote locations

Prescription or over the counter medications have side effects that may also affect an employee’s work performance. Therefore, employees are encouraged to declare any medications that they are taking to help the employers properly examine and control risks.

Strategies to minimize risk

  • Establish a set of rules against alcohol and drug use – create a Drug and Alcohol Policy that will formalize the rules about alcohol and drugs in the workplace
  • Discuss the rules – hold a discussion about the rules on drug and alcohol use to ensure that the workers are able to understand it clearly
  • Administer an educational campaign – start a campaign to raise awareness regarding the alcohol and drug use in the workplace
  • Advocate safe consumption of alcohol at workplace functions – minimize alcohol to a reasonable amount during events

Employees under the influence – Steps to take

On the occurrence that an employee is caught under the influence of alcohol or drugs, proper steps must be taken in dealing with the situation. Below are some steps that an employer may take to control the problem:

Step 1 – Eliminate the immediate risk. Employees who come to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs must be immediately directed to leave the workplace so as to avoid any risk to the safety of the workplace.

Step 2 – Deliberate the situation. The issue must be formally dealt with as soon as possible starting with a discussion with the employee involved. Moral and legal aspects must be avoided and focus must be kept on the safety risks and work performance issues that are compromised with the employee’s behaviors. The employee must be given the chance to explain the situation and answer any allegations. Furthermore, the employee must be properly warned against his/her unfitting behavior and must be given counseling services if deemed appropriate.

Step 3 – Document the situation. The management must document the incident that occurred and record the steps taken to control it.

Step 4 – Pay attention to the possible occurrence of repeated behavior. If a subsequent incident involving the same issue occurs, the same process will apply together with a formal written warning.

Practical guidelines for dealing with alcohol or drug impaired employees

  • Refrain from using terms like, “You’re drunk”
  • Remain firm and calm. Repeat your message and use the person’s name, e.g. “I’m instructing you to stop work for the day/night. Arrangements will be made for you to go home”
  • Avoid arguing and debating the issue. Keep the discussion brief.
  • Arrange an appropriate means for the person involved to get home safely.
  • Convince the person not to drive their own vehicle
  • In the situation that the person refuses to cooperate, contact the person/s specified in the Drug and Alcohol Policy (management, union representative, etc.), examine any probable risk, and evacuate the people near the area or isolate the person involved.
  • Upon the return of the person after the incident, hold a meeting to discuss available options for the employee such as an appropriate leave. The management should also assist the employee, give them advice, explain the rules in the Drug and Alcohol Policy, and discuss the future consequences if the incident happens again