What can a business do to reduce risk to its own operation?
The HSE recommends a clear four-step process for handling alcohol and drug problems at work:
Step 1 Find out the scope of any problems
Audit your organisation to establish what, if any, issues arise from alcohol and drugs use in the workplace.
Step 2 Decide what to do
Consult with others in your organisation including safety representatives, occupational health professionals, supervisors and senior staff in all parts of the business. As part of your decision making, consider:
- If employees should be allowed to drink alcohol at all during the working day.
- How employees who are finding it difficult to control their drinking will be dealt with, including what support can be made available from work, as well as from local health care and charitable providers.
Make sure that all staff, including managers, are aware of the new policy on alcohol and drugs.
- Testing is regarded as necessary in some industries and for some roles, but excessive in others, so this will need careful consideration.
Step 3 Taking action
- Produce a written alcohol and drugs policy to help ensure you deal with difficult situations in the future in a fair and consistent manner.
- Try to be supportive. Experience indicates that those given appropriate support usually go on to regain a healthy lifestyle, once again becoming productive employees. In doing so it is more likely that people are able to maintain positive family and other relationships which in turn help to keep them in good health.
- Disciplinary action will be necessary in the case of gross misconduct, or persistent failure to engage with rehabilitation.
- Look to integrate the policy with other HR policies in your business such as disciplinary, health promotion, stress at work, absence, sickness etc.
- Promote self-help by publicising the help available from health care and charitable providers. This may help employees access help before a critical event at work occurs.
- Consult and communicate with staff and managers to ensure that all involved understand the policy and how it will be enforced. Training of managers and supervisors to increase their confidence and competence in handling these issues will be necessary.
- Consider whether there any safety-critical aspects of the work (for example, using ladders or machinery, driving or using heavy lifting equipment) where drug misuse could have serious repercussions. If there are, target awareness-raising activities to these staff and their managers particularly.
- If testing will be used as part of the policy, ensure that all staff involved are specifically trained and understand why this element has been introduced.
Step 4 – Checking what you have done
Review the policy regularly to determine if the policy is working and whether any changes need to be made.