HR Management & Compliance

Are You Training Appropriate Personnel on What to Do If They Suspect Substance Abuse?

April is Alcohol Awareness Month so this is a good time to address the topic of substance abuse in the workplace. Today’s Advisor provides general training information for you to share with the appropriate personnel.

It’s estimated that close to 10 percent of the U.S. population over age 12 has a substance abuse problem—and most of those substance abusers are employed. Employees who are working under the influence are three times more likely to have job accidents than other employees. They’re also more likely to take more days off and to have a drop in performance even when they’re on the job.

Understand the Problem

Workplace use of alcohol and drugs is a problem that costs American businesses more than $100 billion annually. If that figure sounds high, consider these statistics from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration and other sources:

  • Substance abusers are 2.5 times more likely to be absent 8 or more days a year than other employees.
  • Between 30 percent and 50 percent of all workers’ compensation claims are related to substance abuse (abusers file 3 to 5 times as many claims as other workers).
  • Substance abusers incur 300 percent higher medical costs than nonabusers.
  • Among full-time employees with substance abuse problems, those ages 18 to 25 have the highest rates. However, many older workers have dependence problems, too.

Even a little alcohol can impair judgment, coordination, and reaction time. On the job, the negative fallout of substance abuse includes a steady deterioration of work performance, unreliability, recklessness that can jeopardize the safety of coworkers, and the loss of integrity of the organization’s products, services, and reputation. As a supervisor, you don’t want to let such things happen in your department.

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Know the Rules

The Drug-Free Workplace Act applies to any organization receiving a federal contract of $100,000 or more or a federal grant of any size. If your employer meets these criteria, learn the requirements of the law and your role in meeting them.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has no specific regulations about substance abuse, but the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act requires employers to provide employees with a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” Clearly, substance abuse is such a hazard.
The Department of Transportation has regulations that include drug testing. Other employment laws that may involve substance abuse and treatment include the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. So, know and follow the rules that apply to your organization.
Know and uphold your employer’s policy on drugs and alcohol. In general, these policies prohibit the possession, use, or sale of drugs or alcohol on workplace premises; forbid working under the influence of drugs or alcohol; provide assistance for employees who want help for an abuse problem; and impose discipline up to and including termination on those who refuse help and continue to abuse drugs or alcohol on the job. Follow your employer’s procedure for referring workers to Employee Assistance Programs or outside groups. Also, follow any drug testing procedures that may be part of the policy.

Try a demo of BLR’s remarkable award-winning TrainingToday® at no cost or obligation. This includes the Workplace Safety Library. Get the details.

For more information on Alcohol Awareness Month, visit
In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll cover how to investigate suspected abuse and what to do if it is found.

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