Alcohol and drug testing policies can be seen as strict, unfair, and invasive towards personal privacy if they are not properly tailored to meet the specific needs of a workplace. Prior to implementing the policy, education and training should be made available for all employees; more importantly, the entire process should be communicated transparently to all employees. Instead of policing your employees, invest in designing and implementing an effective alcohol and drug testing policy to protect the health and safety of the business, its staff, and its customers.
1. Recognise the trigger
The need for mandating alcohol and drug testing does not come out of nowhere. There can be a positive trigger, such as a recently enforced legal requirement in the industry, or a negative trigger, such as a workplace incident caused by substance abuse.
This trigger helps you figure out the objective you want to achieve through this policy and set the right direction. The main focus should be risk management, rather than penalising wrongdoers.
2. Define the aspects of the policy
To ensure that the alcohol and drug testing policy is properly seen through from planning to review, a person-in-charge should be appointed. Next, consideration should be given as to what kind of approach to adopt i.e. a hard, top-down approach, or a soft, consultative approach.
Several other aspects of the policy should be defined. Here are some examples:
- Definition of substance use and prohibited substances.
- People subjected to the policy (staff, contractors, visitors, etc.).
- When and where the policy is in effect.
- Procedures for identifying the issues.
- Procedures that follow after a breach of policy.
- Education and training for employees.
- Procedures in addressing privacy and discrimination concerns.
- Support for employees facing substance use issues.
3. Set boundaries
Besides defining what needs to be done, a proscriptive approach is needed as well to identify and address unknown issues without revisiting the policy. Will the alcohol and drug testing policy take on a zero-tolerance approach or is a certain level of breath alcohol concentration acceptable? This should take into account the impact on employees taking prescribed medication, in the instance where certain drugs are deemed prohibited in the policy.
The development of an alcohol and drug testing policy involves discussions and negotiations with various internal and external stakeholders. The policy should be in line with your company’s legal and ethical requirements, and the implementation of procedures should be practical. This process can be slow as a balance should be struck between the opinions of different stakeholders.
Once the policy is established, management and staff should be informed and trained on the acceptable and unacceptable behaviours when it comes to substance use at work. The policy should be included in the employee handbook and should be properly explained during the process of onboarding new employees.
A good policy requires regular review to ensure efficient implementation that benefits the workplace as a whole. Suitable adjustments should be made as the policy evolves.
Besides engaging with an alcohol and drug testing service provider for advice on setting up an alcohol and drug testing policy for your company, you can check out this alcohol and drug testing policy template provided by WorkSafe Tasmania, this guide on developing a workplace alcohol and other drugs policy provided by WorkSafe Victoria, and other resources provided by the Australian government for reference.
The steps laid out in this article are taken from the whitepaper Creating a Drug & Alcohol Policy: A Practical, Step-By-Step Guide to Building an Effective Workplace Management Tool. You can download the whitepaper for an in-depth explanation of this topic.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your business’s needs.
Written by Jaka Exstrada