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How To Address Addiction To Improve Employee Safety

employee struggling with substance abuse

It’s important that you do everything you can to help your employees safe. Your safety program should cover topics like fall protection, fire safety, sexual harassment, and even addictions. Addictions can affect your workplace in a variety of ways so it is vital to address it like any other safety issue.


It’s impossible for employers to know everything about their employees, so there’s a good chance you won’t know what kind of addiction a person is going through. This means that they could be experiencing any number of side effects, ranging from rage to euphoria. The last thing you want to do is place an employee who is under the influence behind the wheel of a vehicle or ask them to operate heavy machinery.


Additionally, employees who suffer from an addiction may not be capable of logical thinking. They could create unsafe conditions or operate in unsafe conditions without a second thought. This carelessness could endanger others.


Many people who are addicted feel the need to get their fix one way or another. This means that a person with an addiction may decide to use drugs or alcohol in the workplace. While many would use drugs privately at work, others might use substances openly because they don’t care, they don’t think they’ll get caught, or they’re not thinking straight. This can hurt the overall reputation of your company and frighten fellow employees.


When employees are using drugs or alcohol it might be only a matter of time before it leads to a workplace injury.


How To Identify Addiction In An Employee

There are differences between drug use and drug addiction. You probably won’t definitively know whether someone is dealing with an addiction unless they come right out and tell you. Instead, you have to look for signs that they are using.


An employee may be neglecting their responsibilities or they may be taking more risks than usual. They may be exhibiting physical signs, such as coming to work with bloodshot eyes or enlarged pupils. There may be an unusual smell on their breath or their clothing, or they may appear disheveled or act differently from usual. They may also be sleepy or even sleep on the job.


Being able to spot physical and behavioral signs of addiction can allow you to address a problem as soon as you notice something is off about your employee.


Address The Addiction With Your Employee

Drug addiction is relatively common, and it could happen to any employee within your company. However, you need to be sensitive when you discuss addiction due to prohibitions about medical privacy and concerns about discrimination.


For example, you can talk to all of your employees about workplace expectations, but you have to be cautious. Don’t single out a single employee. Instead, talk one-on-one with your employee. When you do, avoid using the word addict and other accusatory language. Instead, focus on the symptoms that they’re exhibiting at work. Allow them to give their version of events and their reasons for why they’re acting the way they’re acting.


Recommend the ways that a person may find some assistance, should they need it. You need to remember that you are not a substance abuse professional and it’s not your job to provide an assessment on chemical dependency. Simply steer them in the direction of finding help.


If a workplace safety issue has already occurred, you might have to file some sort of report. As a part of the reporting process, an employee may be drug-tested and work with other departments or outside authorities.


When you are recommending ways for an employee to find assistance, you may want to recommend a non 12 step recovery program. This option could provide a secular assistance option instead of imposing religion on an employee. If they’re actively participating in a recovery program and have successfully completed addiction treatment, the employee could be ready to return to work.


In some instances, particularly if there has been a safety incident or an altercation with another employee, a legal intervention could be required. If this happens, a court may require someone to receive rehab treatment or join a recovery program. This intervention could be a good way for employees to find the help that they need without you overstepping boundaries as their employer.


Implementing Drug Testing

There are many things that you can do to keep your workplace safe.


For one, you have the ability to enforce mandatory drug testing. To do so, you’ll have to create a workplace policy that explicitly discusses drug use and ask your employees to read and sign a copy of this policy.


When you offer candidates jobs, it’s also a good idea to have all the candidates read this policy and take drug tests. If the results come back positive and you hire the employees, they’ll have less protections if they’re involved in drug-related workplace incidents.


Regardless of your industry, drug use can be extremely dangerous. If you have an employee with an addiction, it increases your odds of safety incidents. Do what you can to prevent employee drug use. When you do notice a problem, address it immediately to keep the employee and the entire business safe.



Sources - Warning Signs of Drug Abuse - How to Approach an Employee Who Might Be Dealing with Addiction - Drug Testing Dos and Don’ts

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