Magazine article Security Management

Drug Programs That Test Positive

Magazine article Security Management

Drug Programs That Test Positive

Article excerpt

To handle an upsurge in production demand, a plastics manufacturing plant in the Midwest decided to change the normal work shift for employees from eight hours to twelve hours. In response, some employees began taking stimulants to stay alert for the extra four hours. It wasn't long before the factory was facing a serious methamphetamine addiction problem. After the safety manager found powder residues and razor cuts on plant equipment, he began to fear for worker safety and called in a substance abuse consultant.

The company's initial analysis determined that 15 to 20 percent of the work force was abusing drugs - most of them on the job. By confronting the problem with a strong drug education and testing program, coupled with an employee assistance policy, the company regained control of its workplace. From January 1995 to January 1996, the rate of drug abuse declined to negligible levels.

An effective drug abuse detection and prevention program requires a balanced strategy that gives equal weight to the importance of education, deterrence, and assistance. In implementing a policy, management should also recognize the importance of gaining broad support for its goals through open communications and quick response to employee questions and concerns. Managers can use the following seven-step program as a guide.

Ensure commitment. Management must make a serious commitment to the program. Security professionals trying to win management support should present information on the impact of drug abuse in terms of profitability, worker health, and safety.

Evaluate conditions. The severity of the drug abuse problem at the organization should dictate the program's details. As soon as management is committed to the program, the company should conduct a formal survey to measure employee attitudes and concerns. The survey should determine how the program would be received or what management could do to enhance employee support. Management should disseminate survey results to employees to make employees feel they are part of the process.

For example, to evaluate conditions at its facility, the plastics manufacturer mentioned earlier (we'll call them Plastics Inc.) held companywide meetings at which it gave employees a questionnaire on drug abuse.

Set the policy. A company should set specific program goals and deadlines, keeping in mind that implementation takes time. For example, Plastics Inc.'s goal was twofold: to eliminate drugs from the workplace and to retain all workers in the process. The company initially set a six-month timeline for implementing the plan, but supervisor training and policy adjustments stretched the deadline to a year.

The company's plan of action should be drafted with the assistance of legal counsel. It should be practical, functional, and enforceable, conveying that alcohol and illegal drug use on the job are not permitted.

The policy should explain that its purpose is to promote workplace safety, worker health, and product quality, and to reduce the organization's liability. The company should explain the consequences for employees who violate the policy. The plan should also state the organization's position on drug testing and the consequences of a positive test result.

Before a company decides to implement on-site drug testing, it should consider the following drug testing options.

Applicant testing. Applicant testing is a one-time screen of each potential new hire. This approach can determine that the applicant has not used drugs recently, but it is not a guarantee that the potential employee will not abuse drugs later.

Accident testing. Accident testing, likewise, occurs only once. After a workplace accident, those involved are immediately tested. This approach is a reactive, not a preventive measure.

Applicant and accident testing, while not thorough enough for a comprehensive program, can be critical to a program's deterrent capabilities. …

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