Drug and Alcohol Testing

The abuse of drugs, alcohol and other substances can be detrimental to workplaces in terms of health, work performance and safety.

It might, once upon a time, have been seen as relaxing to have a tipple after work, but in recent years there has been a rise in the importance of occupational health and welfare of staff.

As we stated in a previous blog, regular alcohol intake can be detrimental to an employee and the workforce as a whole, as it is often a sign of a stressed or anxious worker. Substance misuse can cause a number of problems for a company.

Alcohol in the Workplace

In a Government study, The Health of the Nation, Directors revealed what concerned them most, in relation to alcohol intake, in order of priority, was:

  • Loss of productivity and poor performance
  • Lateness and absenteeism
  • Safety concerns
  • Effect on team morale and employee relations
  • Bad behaviour or poor discipline
  • Adverse effects on company image and customer relations

Concerns for most small to medium sized businesses fall into two main areas:

  • Alcohol related absenteeism and sickness absence
  • The effects of substance misuse on productivity and safety

Drugs in the Workplace

‘Drug misuse’ refers to the use of illegal drugs and the misuse, whether deliberate or unintentional, of prescribed drugs and substances such as solvents.

Drug misuse can harm individuals physically and mentally and, through their actions, other people and the environment.

Signs of drug misuse to look out for include:

  • Sudden mood changes
  • Unusual irritability or aggression
  • A tendency to become confused
  • Abnormal fluctuations in concentration and energy
  • Impaired job performance
  • Poor time-keeping
  • Increased short-term sickness absence
  • A deterioration in relationships with colleagues, customers or management
  • Dishonesty and theft (arising from the need to maintain an expensive habit)

Of course, we’re discussing improvements to your bottom line and profit is a major part of this. Don’t worry, we’ve counted the ways and here they are:

  • Effective healthcare provision can result in measurable savings in the costs of benefits provision
  • On-site physiotherapists and medical practitioners – Business Health Partners included! – will reduce time lost for travelling and offers a convenient bonus for employees
  • Income protection insurers will look favourably if you provide evidence of a fall in sickness absence rates – you may be offered premium reductions!
  • A 2012 CIPD study found that sickness absence cost an average of £600 per employee per year
  • Considerable cost reductions can be made through less sick payments and replacement staffing costs, as well as the advantage of improved customer satisfaction – particularly for customer-facing companies – and workforce morale

The Law on Alcohol and Drugs in the Workplace

You have a general duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of your employees. If you knowingly allow an employee under the influence of alcohol or drug misuse to continue working and this places the employee or others at risk, you could be prosecuted.

Your employees are also required to take reasonable care of themselves and others who could be affected by what they do. In the transport industry, there is additional legislation in place to control the misuse of alcohol and drugs.

You’re expected to:

  1. Find out if you have a problem.
  2. Make a list of who you need to consult.
  3. Decide how your company expects employees to limit their drinking.
  4. Consider how you can make sure that if an employee has a possible alcohol problem, this is identified and help is offered.
  5. Decide at what point and in what circumstances you will treat an employee’s drinking as a matter for discipline rather than a health problem.
  6. Think about how you will let your workforce know about company policy on alcohol – consider introducing a formal written alcohol policy.
  7. Find out if any of your managers or other staff need more information or training.
  8. Consider providing staff with general information about alcohol and health.

Business Health Partners says…

Drug screening or testing is a sensitive issue because of the many employment issues involved. Securing the agreement of the workforce to the principle of screening is essential (except in cases of pre-employment testing), partly because of the practical and legal considerations.

All organisations – large and small – can benefit from an agreed policy, applying to all staff, on drug and alcohol misuse.

As with alcohol, a drug misuse policy should form part of your organisation’s overall health and safety policy. Many large organisations have policies that describe their position on drug misuse.

If you’d like to know more about implementing a policy, monitoring and preventing drug and alcohol use in the workplace, plus testing for such substance misuse, good occupational health services will equal good business.

  • Testing and screening can be done on all or part of a workforce on either an occasional, routine or random basis.

Screening is likely to be seen as acceptable if it appears to be part of an organisation’s occupational health policy and is obviously designed to prevent risks to the misuser and others.

At BHP we provide various healthcare services for businesses of all kinds, with decades of combined experience in the health industry, we’re passionate about sharing our knowledge with you.

If you’d like to know more about the occupational health services, training and consultancy that we provide, why not call 07720 956789 or if you like what you hear, follow us at @BusinessHealth_.  


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