eBook: How to Create a Safer, Drug-Free Workplace

Originally published by the following source: SBC MagazineJanuary 15, 2020
by Laura Soderlund


Pill bottle spilling pills onto a United States map

Drug use is on the rise and has reached its highest level in a decade. In fact, a National Safety Council (NSC) study from early 2019 showed that for the first time in the U.S. opioid overdoses are now the number one preventable cause of death in the country. These realities make it increasingly important for companies to re-evaluate employee drug policy and set guidelines to both reduce risk and build a healthier and safer workplace.

In a recently released eBook, EHS Today points out that the drug crisis is very real and while everyone seems to understand that it needs to be addressed, there isn’t a clear path on how to prepare for the rising threat of opioids in the workplace:

“Drug testing is one answer, but in the constantly changing legal landscape, employers have to be extra vigilant when creating a zero-tolerance policy. These days, simply prohibiting the use of ‘illegal drugs’ can create ambiguity because some drugs, like marijuana, are legal in certain states. Another issue is the lack of accepted impairment standards when it comes to defining an employee’s mental capabilities. This is particularly crucial if that employee is driving a commercial vehicle or operating heavy machinery.”

Pill bottles and syringe next to a powdery substance

The eBook goes on to explain some simple steps to help create a safer work environment:

  1. Recognize substance abuse as a disease and offer health programs to workers seeking to overcome dependency.
  2. Train supervisors and workers to identify warning signs such as slurred speech and drowsiness – often early signs of addiction. (Note: Because these warning signs may be caused by other health conditions and may not be accurate for opioids or opiates, it is important to have a witness that can confirm these observations in order to avoid any claims of bias.)
  3. Build a culture that makes workers feel safe to disclose opioid dependency and other complications.

The eBook adds that self-disclosure by affected employees is the most effective way to improve the work environment with regard to this issue: “In order to truly achieve a drug-free workplace, employers should build a culture that makes workers feel safe to disclose opioid dependency and other complications. This would involve encouraging honest, transparent communication, as well as not penalizing employees who are affected by addiction or are taking drugs to ease their pain. To this end, revisiting drug testing failure policies may allow employees to come forth with their opioid-related issues. Frequent drug testing programs including pre-employment tests could also improve the situation.”

This infographic from the eBook shows the serious impacts that drug use has on the workplace:

For additional information on opioids in the workplace, check out these resources:

Future Framing News articles regarding drug use will address a variety of topics including the current stand on drug testing requirements, drug use for medicinal purposes, how to determine possible impairment and best practices for drafting a drug and alcohol policy. If you have any input you’d like to share on this topic, please contact us at info@framerscouncil.org.