Drug & Alcohol
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Reassessing Workplace Drug and Alcohol Policies

Workplace drug and alcohol abuse has long plagued employers and employees alike. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 52% of employers say that impairment reduces the safety of their workforce. And a full 39% say that impairment causes more injuries on the job. That means higher insurance premiums and reduced productivity. At a deeper level, it also means an unsafe work environment for your employees including injury and even death.

Drug and alcohol testing programs help mitigate this problem through early intervention. Yet crises such as alcoholism and the fentanyl epidemic persist. What if drug and alcohol misuse in the workplace has a deeper – and addressable – root cause?

A fresh look at impairment on the job

A traditional approach to workplace safety separated work and home life into separate spheres. Yet, on-the-job situations affect an employee’s homelife. Likewise, homelife impacts job performance. While these facts have been known for decades, COVID-19 and the rise of work-from-home situations have brought them to the forefront.

“The pandemic accelerated how we looked at impairment,” says Ryan West, Director of Corporate Training at ARCpoint Labs. “Let’s look at impairment beyond drugs and alcohol. People who are stressed, people who are depressed, or worried about their finances are not focused on their work.”

West points out that impairment issues go far beyond drug or alcohol misuse. It encompasses any diminishment of loss of function or ability. Employee isolation, financial problems, substance misuse, and both physical and mental distress each feed worker impairment.

“The solution should not just be drug and alcohol testing,” says West. “The solution is in connecting employees to a cost-effective well-being program.”

For an employer, supervisor, or HR professional, recognizing the signs of impairment before they lead to drug and alcohol misuse is key. These may include:

  • Emotional and mental symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, depression, panic attacks, or the inability to experience joy or sadness
  • Behavioral and mental symptoms including frequent and/or heaving drinking or smoking, gambling, overeating, and other compulsive behaviors
  • Physical symptoms such as chest pain and racing heart, pain or exhaustion, headaches and dizziness, appetite changes, and frequent sickness

Not all these symptoms of stress-induced impairment are easy to recognize from the outside. Paying attention to your employees’ work habits, requests for time off, health complaints, or co-worker issues play a role in recognizing distress, and reduced well-being early on. Get to know your employees at a personal level to identify the changes in mood, behavior and the physical symptoms outlined above.

Is traditional workplace drug and alcohol testing still needed?

Yes.

Drug and alcohol testing remain very much a part of workplace safety solutions. An impaired driver or other operator puts both themselves and others at risk while working impaired. State and federal drug and alcohol testing regulations remain in place for the safety of your employees and others.

The common drugs of misuse have changed rapidly in just a few years. For instance, fentanyl use has climbed rapidly. Marijuana use, on the other hand, has been legalized or decriminalized in many states. The policies many supervisors and human resources professionals have in place may not reflect the current situation, and policies should be reviewed annually.

Dive deep to learn more

To learn more about current trends in drug and alcohol testing in the workplace, please join ARCpoint Labs in a free webinar on Wednesday, April 20 from 12-1:00 p.m. EDT. This webinar is accredited for Human Resources professionals, but all leaders are encouraged to attend.

Supercharge Your Drug Testing Program in 2022.” will feature Ryan West plus a special guest, Assistant DEA Special Agent Michael Gannon, in a discussion of on-the-job safety, the rise of synthetic opioid deaths, and the latest best practices in keeping your workplace incident-free and productive.