Don’t Ignore Drug and Alcohol Abuse When Workplace Whistle blowers Come Forward
Workers don’t want to be put at risk of bodily harm by co-workers. They also don’t want to be seen as ‘rats’ or ‘snitches’. In Australia and New Zealand this phenomenon has led to the rise of the whistle blower.
Workers are empowering themselves by being anonymous or semi-anonymous sources of information, or whistle blowers, when they suspect a co-worker is a risk in the workplace.
Many companies are smartly encouraging their staff to speak up about their suspicions and report behavior that sits outside company standards. Other companies are providing professional training to managers to help identify drug and alcohol risks in the workplace.
The result is businesses are investigating many more whistle blower cases, as well as making their investigation and discipline processes transparent. This ensures staff understand the rules and feel protected and safeguarded.
Behaviors and signs that someone may be under the influence can at times be obvious, but most employees don’t want to deal with it personally – so they report it. When employees speak up it can have a powerful impact on a company and generate real change within it.
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. And untrained employees are reluctant to deal with delicate and potentially volatile situations.
Confronting a worker requires special training, its ripe with pitfalls and legal issues.
TDDA offers a number of training initiatives to help recognize and combat drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace.
Our CSI in-depth, hands-on 8-hour course is based on the scientifically recognized Drugs of Abuse Recognition (DAR) program in the United States which is taught in both commercial and government sectors. It will teach and certify participants in specialized eye, balance and coordination testing – vital skills to identify indicators of drug influence. As part of the program, we also guide employers through our new CSI mobile app. The new app provides employers with an easy to use tool that offers ongoing advice and information to help recognize the signs of drug use.
If there is reasonable cause to suspect an employee of being under the influence of drugs, the program then helps to prepare for the likely reaction, which is often determined by the drug and how it tends to affect behavior.
The next step is then confirming suspicions through drug screening.
It’s at this stage that companies need to be careful. Smart companies realize that testing is a professional service like any other, and seek professional advice.
Despite a growing body of evidence highlighting the problems and pitfalls of DIY drug testing, companies in New Zealand and Australia continue to look for low-cost solutions.
Drug testing seems a straight-forward enough task, and DIY seems an easy way of keeping costs down. But it’s not so simple, I have seen many a company come unstuck by not understanding the procedural and operational complexities of workplace drug testing.
Poor quality testing and a lack of qualified procedure represent an explosive 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. It can also result in a worker harming themselves or a coworker.
The Australian FairWork Commission recently ruled against a diagnostic services company, citing disciplinary process flaws, in a case with DIY drug testing.
The company conducted a drug test on a female employee after being informed by her neighbor that she was under the influence of drugs. When asked to give a urine test the employee became agitated, claiming she had spent the morning trying to gain an Apprehended Violence Order against her neighbor.
The employee left the building saying she would come back after lunch and never did. She was later called into a disciplinary meeting for failing to return for the test and her employment was terminated for serious misconduct.
The Fair Work Commission determined that while the company did have reasonable grounds for requesting a drug test, it was not best practice to take a drug sample from a person they work with and manage. Nor was the process to take the sample in line with Australian and New Zealand Standards.
This reinforces the importance of using an independent and accredited tester when conducting drug and alcohol testing, best practice and knowledge of international standards is critical.
It 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.
Workers are getting savvy, safety conscious, and speaking up, and companies have a duty of care to investigate their reports. You can’t afford to not take action when people’s lives and livelihoods – as well as your company’s reputation – are on the line.
TDDA has ISO15189:2012 accreditation for workplace drug testing in both New Zealand and Australia respectively (see NATA and IANZ websites for further detail). TDDA is considered to be a leader in its field with more than 50 locations throughout Australasia. www.tdda.com