How to Come Up with an Effective Drug-Free Workplace Policy
One way to address drug abuse in the workplace is to create a drug-free workplace policy. Every establishment has a different policy. A drug-free workplace policy should always comply with the existing laws and regulations of the state. When creating a drug-free workplace policy, organizations should take into consideration factors like the nature of their business and job vacancies, values, and priorities.
An ineffective drug-free workplace policy can cause waste of money, lives, and opportunities. Hence, this article will walk you through the several steps on how to come up with an effective drug-free workplace program as suggested by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association (SAMSHA).
Determine the purpose of a drug testing policy
An effective drug-free workplace policy can serve a lot of purpose. Determine the reason why your organization needs to put up a drug-free workplace program. Is it because a certain law requires your organization to create a drug-free workplace policy? Or is it because your organization’s insurance carrier requires you to abide with their rules as an insurance grantee? You must have a purpose why your organization needs a drug testing policy. Once you are able to determine the purpose of your program, you will be able to clearly define your objectives – the most important part of the drug-free workplace program that will lead you on creating a successful implementation strategy for your drug testing policy.
Know the basic elements of a drug testing policy
An effective drug-free workplace policy should outline the state’s requirements on workplace drug policies, background or history of the organization, goals of the policy, expected outcomes and specific prohibitions, techniques of effective implementation, and consequences and appeals. It should also define the drug testing policy as means of ensuring safety and an assurance of a drug-free workplace for employees.
Every organization that aims to create a drug testing policy to achieve a drug-free workplace should always make sure that the policy meets the needs of the employees and the organization. Evaluate the nature of your business to determine the extent of drug test you can perform to tackle your company’s goals and address specific concerns. For instance, you may consider drug testing that addresses the use of alcohol, tobacco or illegal substances to prevent the negative outcomes of drug use, such as habitual absence and poor work performance.
Look for existing models of a drug-free workplace program from the national, regional, or local level to help you create an effective drug testing program. Familiarize yourself with your city and state’s labor practices and federal laws on drug testing, so that you will be able to cover your employees’ legal rights while protecting your business’ interest.
Ask a lawyer to review the drug testing policy
To keep you on the safe side it is important to have your drug testing policy checked by a lawyer. Ask for a legal expert to assess the drafted policy. Evaluate the effectiveness of the policy, correct its flaws, and suggest better ideas in accordance with the federal and state laws. An experienced corporate lawyer will be able to help in making the drug testing policy remain fair to both employers and employees by evaluating its legal, health, safety, and productivity aspects.
Prepare the workplace
After the finalization and approval of the policy, part of an effective implementation of a drug-free workplace policy is to educate employees on the new rules. An employer should ensure that new employees are oriented with the company’s existing drug testing policy before their official first day at work. The purpose of this is to avoid possible negative behaviors that may threaten the safety of all employees in the workplace. An organization may also conduct forums, workshops, and training to inform employees of the new drug testing policy and make them adhere to it. As part of the training, the organization should ensure that supervisors will be well-informed on how to effectively communicate and fairly enforce the policy to their subordinates.
Determine the issues and provide assistance
In order to be effective, a drug-free workplace policy should not only state the dos and don’ts in employee drug testing, but also state that the supervisors will remain vigilant to any health and safety issues in the workplace. The policy may also assert that there will be an annual review of the work performed as part of the organization’s data gathering and policy effectiveness evaluation. Additionally, it may discuss specific types of assistance programs that can be extended to employees who are found to be affected by drug abuse and workplace related hazards.
Characteristics of an Effective, Comprehensive Drug-Free Workplace Program
An effective drug-free workplace program strikes the balance between two philosophies. The first is sending a clear message and the second is encouraging employees to seek help in case of a drug problem. It helps provide a safe place to work, discourages alcohol and drug use, and encourages treatment and recovery for employees with a drug problem.
Designing and implementing a drug-free workplace program can be time-consuming. Therefore, we are enumerating 9 important characteristics that your organization should consider to make a comprehensive and effective drug-free workplace program.
Must be clear and complete – Before starting a drug-free workplace program, your organization must learn about the existing labor, federal, and state laws that deal with workplace drug abuse. The drug-free program must be planned carefully and must be referred to legal experts for advice and corrections. It must also state goals and expected outcomes, such as maintaining violence-free workplace, boosting employee morale, improving employee productivity, and so forth.
Must be fair to employees – The drug-free workplace program must state the employees’ rights to access drug test results, make an appeal for any positive drug test result, and seek recovery treatment when necessary – among others. It should also be open to employee suggestions and complaints. After all, a drug-free workplace program should be seen as a strategy to improve employees’ workplace safety and quality of life.
Must contain a written policy – A drug-free workplace program should have clear written policies and procedures that will be distributed in visible worksites. The policy must include provisions of appeal and must be consistently applied.
Must consider the collective bargaining process – If applicable, your drug-free workplace program must also be properly discussed with a union of representatives.
Must protect confidentiality – The drug-free workplace policy must ensure that the right of employees to privacy is protected. It must spell the process of drug testing and state the consequences for those who violate the process. Your organization must also know the proper ways to keep and dispose of drug test results.
Must ensure accurate testing and objective review – Since drug testing is an important component of a drug-free workplace program, an organization must ascertain the following:
- Samples are correctly collected
- The chain of custody is properly imposed
- The tests are properly conducted by well trained and supervised lab technicians
- The results are communicated to a Medical Review Officer when needed
Must undergo expert’s review – The first and final draft of the drug-free workplace policy must be reviewed by a lawyer. Lawyers have the widest knowledge about labor and employment, making them the most reliable people to advise you on relevant state laws governing workplace drug use. They can also alert you to the changes on existing rules and regulations that you might not be fully aware of.
Must address workplace drug abuse in the context of health, safety, and productivity –Your drug-free workplace policy must not aim to intimidate employees; instead, it should discourage your staff to stay away from drug use. It must be imposed to promote good health, safety, and productivity among employees. A drug-free workplace program that thinks about the welfare of the organization’s employees eliminates social stigma and is proven to be more effective and successful.
Must ensure good communication and ongoing review – An effective drug-free workplace program must ensure that both employers and employees are knowledgeable about their roles, rights, and responsibilities under the program. The program must also be communicated effectively (i.e. the organization may facilitate a drug education program or hold meetings, a question-and-answer session, and seminars, as well as distribute suggestion box for employees). Employers should also keep track on how the program works on a daily basis, invite feedback, and revise program in case of changes on existing rules and regulations.
Standard Process of Taking Samples for Drug Testing
In most cases, a urine drug test is performed to determine if an individual is using any illicit substances that may interfere with job performance. It is a quick, non-invasive type of drug testing that can help detect potential substance abuse.
Drug testing should be done in the presence of a Medical Review Officer (MRO), a licensed physician who is qualified to interpret and evaluate test results as well as provide medical information.
A basic urine drug test can detect 5 types of drugs, namely:
Specimen collection procedure for a urine drug test is as follows:
The area should be secure. A specimen cup is given to the individual. It is important that the genital area should be cleaned with a moist cloth. Collect the midstream urine. The collection of the specimen must allow the individual to have privacy unless the particular person is believed to have the intention of cheating the drug test. At least 45 milliliters of urine should be collected. If the employee fails to collect as much urine sample, he is advised to drink up to 24 ounces of fluid before sample extraction. If the toilet is to be used as the place of collection, water supply should be temporarily cut-off to avoid tampering of the specimen. A split sample of urine is collected. In the event that the result is positive, a confirmatory testing may be performed by the testing laboratory. The chain of custody form must be completed and shipped with the specimen.
Processing the Urine Sample
The first test is performed by an immunoassay test. This test should be able to determine and quantify the amount of drug present in the sample provided. There are cut-off levels from which the results are based, such as:
Amphetamines – 1000 ng/ml Cannabis – 50 ng/ml Cocaine – 300 ng/ml Opiate metabolites – 300 ng/ml Phencyclidine – 25 ng/ml
Drug testing administrators usually give the results in terms of positive or negative and not the numeric values. A confirmatory test is performed on all initial positive tests. Should the second test remain positive, the sample may be tested in a different certified laboratory to be sent within 72 hours.
Reporting and Review of Positive Results
The MRO carefully examines each confirmed positive result to determine if there are any medical reasons for the positive result. Some medications that an individual is taking may produce a positive result, and this information should be relayed to the MRO.
The MRO will discuss the findings with the employee and will ask if the employee is taking any prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs or herbal medicine that could have affected the result. If it has been found out that some medications are taken by the employee, the MRO may report to the employer that the test is negative.
On the other hand, any positive result that confirms the use of illicit substances may be used by the employer as the basis for refusal to hire.
Challenges with Drug-Free Workplace Programs
Putting up a drug-free workplace program will not make HR Managers very popular among employees, as some of them will out-rightly object to drug testing. They feel that drug testing is intrusive and that it invades their privacy. HR has to make employees understand the rationale behind the policy, hence the recommended employee training. They should also make sure that all employees are treated with fairness, dignity, and respect.
As HR establishes the drug-free workplace program, they should also train their supervisors on how to deal with employees who may be having drug or alcohol-related performance issues - from observing signs of substance abuse through behavioral changes to spotting intoxication or impairment while on the job, all the while properly documenting everything. In short, if a supervisor is responsible for referring an employee for drug testing based on reasonable suspicion, that supervisor should be given the proper training in order to make that determination.
HR practitioners, hiring managers and supervisors should try to learn every trick in the book. Drug use is so prevalent that the chances of having users and abusers in your organization (many of whom will likely try to cheat on their drug test) is practically guaranteed. The only times however that you or other safety officers in your organization will be in attendance for a drug test on an employee is when you are doing it on-site or post-accident and in some cases when there’s reasonable suspicion. Still, it couldn’t hurt to have some knowledge of how cheating on a drug test is done.
What Happens at the Sample Collection Site?
This training video demonstrates what happens when one reports for a federal drug test. The procedure varies very little between collection and testing facilities. More differences will be noted when collecting different samples, like saliva, blood or hair. Urine testing is the most widely used method for employee testing, but saliva testing has gained in popularity in recent years owing to the improvements in saliva testing technologies. This video does a good job of showing the step-by-step procedure from asking the subject’s identification upon arrival at the collection site up to the point when the sample is sealed for sending to the lab.
The Employee Assistance Program
The EAP is another major consideration when instituting a Drug-Free Workplace Policy. It is an employee benefit where employees and their families can receive assistance if the employee’s performance is adversely affected by stressors on the job, personal problems or substance abuse. EAPs vary from company to company but they do share common components like education, healthcare management and training and referrals to service providers like substance abuse clinics.
Building your own Drug Testing Policy is a daunting task but it should not feel like rocket science either. It does need an inexhaustible amount of patience when sifting thru the tons of information already floating around on the internet. But that’s just it, all the information you will need are already out there. Just remember to run everything through your legal counsel to make sure you have covered all the
Fair Reasons for Dismissal
Workplace drug testing is very significant in any setting as it maintains a healthy and safe environment for employees while generating quality products and services to customers. However, not all employees may be complying with the company policy for a drug-free workplace.
Based on the provisions of a workplace drug testing policy, the employer has every right to dismiss any employee who is found to be:
How to Inform Employees about the Company Drug-Free Workplace Policy
Informing employees about your drug-free workplace policy is the main key to make your policy work. However, helping your employees adjust to the policy can be a challenge.
The following are some tips on how to effectively communicate the drug-free workplace policy to your employees:
1. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of your organization must write a letter informing all employees about the implementation of a drug-free workplace policy.
Listed below are the things that the CEO letter should contain:
- A brief discussion on the risks of drug abuse to the organization (i. e. increased absenteeism, higher insurance cost, more injuries and fatalities, lower productivity, and reduced employee morale.)
- The organization’s role in helping employees achieve good health, avoid problems with drug abuse and increase safety.
- Explanation of how the program can benefit the employees and their family, and a summary of the major benefits that the employee will get upon the implementation of the policy
- Introduction to the activities, meetings, and training related to the policy
- Methods about how employees can access the written policy and any accompanying materials
2. Reinforce the message from the CEO through a specially tailored communication with supervisors and managers in order to establish consistency and understanding of the policy.
If applicable, arrange a meeting with the union of representatives.
3. Make sure that all employees get a copy of the written policy.
If your organization has a website, upload a copy of the policy. Additionally, provide a hard copy in case your employees are not able to download them from the Internet.
4. Create a policy fact sheet that will highlight the major points and implications of the drug-free workplace policy.
The following are things that your fact sheet may contain:
- Rationale – State the reason why there is the need to implement the policy, how the policy was developed, and what is expected to do under the policy.
- Rules and regulations – State the dos and don’ts of the policy and specify the substance that employees should not take.
- Consequence and appeal – State the procedures on how to determine if the employee has violated the policy, specify the penalties, and explain the process of filing an appeal.
- Benefits and assurance – Explain how the company will help the employees, state how the company will protect the rights of an employee to privacy, and guarantee fairness and consistency of the policy.
5. Hold regular activities to keep your employees reminded of the policy, such as safety meetings, staff meetings, and supervisor training.
6. Inform job applicants and new-hires of the drug-free workplace policy during the job orientation.
If applicable, provide them an updated employee handbook.
7. Call for an emergency meeting with supervisors and managers whenever there are changes and updates to the drug workplace policy.
The supervisors and managers should make it a point to inform their subordinates of any changes.
How to Convince Management to Start a Drug Testing Program in Your Company
Having a drug-free company will not only be beneficial to the owners but to other employees as well. That’s why it’s very important that you can adopt a drug testing program right at your own organization. However, it’s never going to be that easy, especially when the management itself is totally apprehensive about it.
Here are some tips on how to convince the management to begin a drug testing program in your company:
1. Inform them of the benefits of developing one.
One of the best ways to get their nods is to let them know what the rewards are when you have a drug-free company. These may include lesser conflicts in the organization, more productive employees, lesser turnover, and a healthier working environment for everyone.
To help you out during the persuasion process, you can cite a drug-free company and how the program helps them to become a more successful one and achieve their goals.
2. Create drug-related policies.
Sometimes the management would just like to see if you mean what you want to happen. What you can do is to create drug-related policies in the workplace. Make sure that they are very easy to understand and will not be misinterpreted by anyone.
It’s also essential that you can identify the possible sanctions a drug user may face if found violating the drug-related policies. When they see that you’re willing to take on the challenge of leading the drug testing program with your policies, it will be easier for them to give you the blessing you want.
3. Stress the laws that govern the development of a drug-free company.
Workplace drug testing is not only compliant with work or contract requirements, but it’s also mandated by law and supervised by various federal agencies. When your arguments will be backed up by proper regulations and provisions of the law against substance abuse, there’s a huge possibility that the management would not mind having one in your company.
4. Focus on the long-term cost than the initial investment needed for a drug testing program.
One of the reasons why the management may be lukewarm to the idea of a drug testing program in a company is because of the cost. After all, you can’t start it unless it has its own budget, which will have to come from the coffers of the company. Nevertheless, you can inform the leaders that it’s better to invest now than continuously develop liabilities in the company along the way.
Having a drug user is no joke, and when they are too many, they can already be too costly. They will be unproductive, basically, need more money than the others, and will push those who are not into substance abuse to eventually leave the company for their own safety. With the drug testing program, you can already correct the problems of a drug user, give him/her the necessary treatment so he/she can be more fit to work, and, if it still fails, remove him/her from the organization before he/she does more harm than good.