December 10, 2013

Drug and Alcohol Testing … Who Really Do You Test?

By Paul Bieber

It’s so easy, on the 1st of the month, everyone whose name begins with A, and B on the second of the month.  Wait, that’s silly and too expensive.  Let’s make it more specific and test men on Monday and Tuesday, women on Wednesday and Thursday, and for all others, we will reserve Friday.  Nah, that won’t work either.

How about if we set up a program of training our supervisors to observe specific behaviors that may indicate impairment at work?  In fact, this is what you should do.  If you are planning a substance abuse policy for your company, pick a vendor to do the testing and they will set you up with a standardized two-hour supervisor training program.  This will cover what impairment means and what to do when a supervisor observes it.

The basic intent is to prevent accidents at work, maintain the high standards of your product’s quality and to keep production going according to schedule.  So here’s a quick synopsis of the two-hour program.

You’ll learn what is cause for ordering a test:

  • Loud speaking voice or yelling;
  • Erratic behavior;
  • Inability to hold a coherent conversation;
  • Direct observation of using a prohibited substance … booze or drugs;
  • Smelling a banned product … beer or marijuana, for instance;
  • The unexplained loss of product, like dropping a lot of glass on one shift;
  • Sleeping or malingering on the job;
  • Unexplained long lunch or work break; and/or
  • Inability to finish an assigned task.

You should always have two supervisors observe the behavior and agree that it is cause for testing.  Even if you have to call an extra supervisor in from home or another location, do this.  Why?  If the person you suspect does test cleanly, he may feel the single supervisor is picking on him, which is the single most common response to sending an employee for mandatory testing.  If you don’t have two supervisors, ask another employee to observe the behavior and get strong agreement that something is amiss.

Okay, you have decided that Erratic Eddie needs to be tested for a being impaired at work.  Now what?  Well, you send him for testing, of course.  Huh?  You have just made the decision that Eddie is impaired and you tell him to drive to the testing site to prove his innocence.  WRONG!  If Eddie has an auto accident, you are liable.  Think about it.  You think he is impaired and then tell him to drive his own car.  Just give the front door key to the owner of the car that Eddie hits.

Never let Eddie drive on his own.  Have another employee drive Eddie to the testing site.  Some people will feel very uncomfortable doing this, as they are taking an employee to a the place where they will prove he is about to lose his job.  Many companies will send Eddie in a taxi, paying for both the going and coming back to the company or to take Eddie home.  You may not get the test results for a day.  You don’t want Eddie coming back to work on this shift.  Tell him that if the test is negative he will be paid in full for the entire shift.  If it is positive, then you’ll follow the next step in your plan, which we will discuss next week.

If Eddie refuses, then your next step is followed.  What if he insists on driving himself.  Tell him that you will call the police and report that a person you believe is under the influence is driving and you will give the police a description of the car and of Eddie. 

Most employees will deny they are impaired after a supervisor says there is cause.  The two-hour traing program will go over this in-depth, teaching how to avoid confrontation, yet get the point across.

The next step is the structure of what to do with a positive test.  We’ll go there next week.