Labor Department Offers Suggestions for Employers' Substance Abuse Programs

The Department of Labor has proclaimed this week Drug-Free Work Week as a way to educate employers, employees and the general public about the importance of being drug-free for workplace safety and health.

In a collaborative effort with the 13 members of its Drug-Free Workplace Alliance - a cooperative program focused on improving worker safety and health in the construction industry through drug-free workplace programs - the Labor Department is suggesting that employers engage in the following activities to build safer, healthier workplaces through substance abuse prevention and intervention:

  • Implement a drug-free workplace program - Such programs are natural complements to other initiatives that help protect worker safety and health.
  • Promote your drug-free workplace program - Drug-Free Work Week is a logical time to ensure the program is adequate to meet current needs and to remind employees about its important role in keeping them safe while on the job.
  • Train supervisors - Supervisor training is important as they should understand their organization's policy on alcohol and drug use; ways to deal with workers who have performance problems that may be related to substance abuse; and how to refer employees to available assistance.
  • Educate workers - To achieve a drug-free workplace, it is critical that an organization educate its workers about the nature of alcohol and drug use and its negative impact on workplace safety and productivity.
  • Remind employees about the availability of EAP or MAP services - Employee assistance programs (EAP) or member assistance programs (MAP), offer free, confidential services to help all employees, including supervisors, resolve personal and workplace problems, such as substance abuse.
  • Offer health screenings - Organizations can use Drug-Free Work Week to encourage employees to assess their own use of alcohol and drugs and privately determine if they need help to change their behavior.
  • Publicize available community treatment resources - Drug-Free Work Week is a great time to remind employees about community resources such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon that can be helpful for a person struggling with a substance abuse problem or those who are close to him or her.
  • Review your health insurance policy - Review your health insurance policy to see if substance abuse treatment is covered, and if it isn't, consider discussing the prospect of adding coverage with whoever handles your organization's health benefits.
  • Allow employees time to volunteer in community drug prevention efforts - Drug-Free Work Week offers the chance to show commitment to substance abuse prevention both inside and outside the workplace.
  • Create a drug-free workplace display - Freshen up bulletin boards in break areas or other locations that employees frequent by posting positive messages about the importance of being drug-free to their safety and that of their co-workers.
  • Feature Drug-Free Work Week in the employee newsletter or Intranet - Articles could be on a range of topics, including general information about substance abuse and its impact in the workplace environment; sources of help for workers with substance abuse problems; and actions workers can take if they think a colleague may have a substance abuse problem.
  • Distribute a payroll message listing hotlines or a reminder about Drug-Free Work Week for employees - Paychecks are one thing that every employee pays attention to! Provide additional value during Drug-Free Work Week by including a leaflet or message listing sources of help for those with substance abuse problems.
  • Hold a social event celebrating safety and health - A social event with plenty of food, fun and non-alcoholic drinks can help reinforce the importance of being drug-free to working safely and remind workers that alcohol is not necessary to unwind and relax.
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