Don’t Ignore When Employee Suspicions of Drug Abuse Come Forward
Written by Lucas Kibby
With the rise of the opioid epidemic affecting all workplaces nationwide, and the continued legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, keeping an eye on workplace drug abuse is critical in safety sensitive positions.
When it comes to keeping a safe workplace environment, managers need to utilize their employees to keep an eye on potential safety hazards from their co-workers, especially when it comes to potential drug or alcohol abuse in the workplace.
Many companies are encouraging their staff to speak up about their suspicions and report behavior that sits outside company policies.
These companies use the “hearsay” tips so managers can then directly observe an employee’s behavior, in order to qualify for reasonable suspicion testing.
The difficulty for employers is to create an environment where employees are willing to express safety concerns, trust that they aren’t being ignored, and trust that managers will react responsibly.
Create an Environment for Employees to Speak Up about Reasonable Suspicion
Although employees want a safe workplace environment, they don’t want to be seen as ‘rats’ or ‘snitches’.
The underlying issue is that many workplaces haven’t created a positive environment for employees to speak up. This may be due to fear of co-worker retaliation, managers not treating these tips as anonymous, managers ignoring these tips altogether, or just general fear of the management staff.
Employers need to create environments in which promote trust and confidence so employees feel comfortable coming forward to report a concern.
Workers are empowering themselves by being anonymous or semi-anonymous sources of information when they suspect a co-worker is a risk in the workplace. Remember, in order to qualify for reasonable suspicion testing, managers and supervisors trained in identifying must directly observe an employee’s behavior, and not just based on “hearsay”.
When an employee expresses a concern about a co-worker, use it as an opportunity to be on alert. If they noticed irregularities in an employee or their behavior caused by intoxication, chances are managers will too.
A workplace environment which promotes trust and confidence result in businesses investigating more “hearsay” cases, as well as making their investigation and discipline processes transparent. This ensures staff understand the rules and feel protected and safeguarded.
Reasonable Suspicion Training Needed at all Levels
Behaviors and signs that someone may be under the influence can at times be obvious. Unfortunately, identifying a worker who is under the influence of drugs isn’t always as easy. With most modern drugs, employees and management are ill equipped and lack the skills, training and confidence to detect and report abuses.
Even when the obvious tell-tale signs such as attendance problems, performance and behavioral issues, forgetfulness, minor accidents, and frequent mishaps are present, detecting and establishing drug and alcohol use can be difficult. Untrained employees are also reluctant to deal with delicate and potentially volatile situations.
Encourage all employees to understand the symptoms of on-the-job drug or alcohol use among their coworkers.
Confronting a worker requires special training, its ripe with pitfalls and legal issues. Managers need to have, and in many cases, are required to have reasonable suspicion training.
Reasonable suspicion can be a tricky legal issue. Some companies, like the State of Nevada’s Drug and Alcohol Program, recommends to its managers that, whenever possible, they have another manager or supervisor confirm their suspicion before proceeding with a test. In order to avoid bias, the first supervisor doesn’t tell the second supervisor what they suspect, but simply states they’re are concerned about the employee’s job performance or behavior. Allow the second supervisor to observe the worker, draw their own conclusions and offer an opinion. If both supervisors agree, the basis for reasonable suspicion testing is even stronger.
Drug Testing DIY vs On-site or Off-site Drug Testing Collection Companies
Drug testing seems a straight-forward enough task, and DIY seems an easy way of keeping costs down. This is when a company purchases their own drug testing kits and handles specimen collections themselves.
However, this process is not so simple. Many companies don’t understanding the procedural and operational complexities of workplace drug testing.
Poor quality testing and a lack of qualified procedure represent a dangerous combination that can result in a wrong test result or personal grievance against the company. This can result in an employee wrongly accused of taking drugs or that someone taking drugs goes unidentified.
This reinforces the importance of using an independent collector, like CleanFleet, when conducting drug and alcohol testing, who is knowledgeable of federal and state testing regulations. A trusted third-party protects the interests of the employer and employee and guarantees accurate outcomes in a professional manner that will hold up in a court of law.
Creating an environment which promotes trust and confidence so employees feel comfortable coming forward to report a concern, and companies having trust and confidence in the collection process by using a best-practice third-party collector, is so important in today’s changing landscape.
You can’t afford not to take action when people’s lives, livelihoods, and company’s reputation are on the line.