Employers Can Break the Cycle with Education and Training

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Employers Can Break the Cycle with Education and Training

By Sharon Bottcher, Director of Policy Services at Current Consulting Group (CCG)

This information is provided for educational purposes only. Reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein. 

According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 40.3 million Americans, aged 12 or older, had a substance use disorder (SUD) in the past year.¹ Substance use disorders (SUDs) continue to be an important health issue in our country. 

Substance abuse in the workplace is a serious problem and statistics show that substance abuse is on the rise. Drug use and abuse is constantly making headlines, and the need for employers to combat drug abuse has never been greater.   

SUDs are treatable, chronic diseases characterized by a problematic pattern of use of a substance or substances leading to impairments in health, safety, social function, and control over substance use. Drug use impairs the decision-making abilities of employees and can create physical impairments as well, and in the workplace, this could be a dangerous combination. 

How Can Employers Help? 

To lessen the impact of drug use in the workplace, an employer may adopt and implement a drug and alcohol testing program. It is well documented that drug testing in the workplace can be an effective deterrent to substance abuse and helps employers maintain a safe working environment. A testing program is also implemented to minimize the risk of hiring new employees who are actively using drugs and therefore reduces the chances of a drug user from gaining entrance in the workplace. 

However, there is another important step that employers can accomplish in helping those suffering from drug addiction. Early intervention through training and education is key in assisting individuals in recognizing and preventing substance misuse in the workplace. Early intervention has an astounding effect to limit drug use and abuse while protecting the health and safety of workers. The goal of early intervention is to reduce the harms associated with substance misuse, to reduce risk behaviors before they lead to injury, and to prevent progression of the disease.  

While it may be difficult to eliminate the nationwide epidemic of substance abuse, a testing program coupled with training and education can make a huge impact in reducing the harmful affects related with drug abuse. 

The Importance of Education and Training of Supervisors and Employees 

Understanding the impact of alcohol and other drugs is undoubtedly an invaluable strength. Knowing how drugs impact the body, the long and short-term effects of substance abuse, and the possible risk factors involved are all key parts of the prevention strategy. 

Drug awareness through education is a means to distribute information and facts to expose the possible risks and impacts of drug use and abuse. Education is relatively low cost and is highly effective for employees to self-diagnose a potential problem to seek help on their own. Education is the main driver of delivering results for a successful drug and alcohol testing program. 

There are several training initiatives to support educating employees and supervisors about the effects of substance use on health, job duties, and work safety. For supervisors, it is crucial that they understand their specific responsibilities for initiating and managing the drug free workplace policy and program. Additionally, they should also be trained to recognize and deal with employees who have job performance, personal, and family problems that could be related to alcohol or other drugs.  

Given the importance of the supervisor’s position in a company’s drug testing program, it’s no surprise that several state laws and the Department of Transportation (DOT) mandate supervisor training and regulate the content of that training. Over 30 states and municipalities in the United States have drug testing laws, whether they are mandatory, voluntary, or industry specific. Of those states, approximately 12 of them have laws that require and regulate supervisor training in some way.² The most common supervisor training program requirements in drug testing laws are number of hours of training, annual training renewal, and training content. 

Regarding training content, all 12 states that require supervisor training mention recognizing the signs of substance abuse and alcohol misuse as part of the training. Regardless of legal requirements, well-trained supervisors can make a significant difference in establishing and maintaining a drug-free workplace program that produces desired results. Untrained and uninformed supervisors could lead to redundant, unnecessary, and costly mistakes. More importantly, they could produce opportunities for legal confrontations from mistreated employees. In all cases, whether the law requires it or not, supervisor training is strongly recommended to ensure a well-received and effective drug testing program.  

To reinforce the benefits of education below are some points to consider for training and staff developments.  

Employee Training   

Training is not just for those in a managerial role. Employee training is just as important as training supervisors and managers. Employee awareness training is for all employee who are subject to drug and alcohol testing in accordance with a workplace drug and alcohol testing policy.  It provides awareness and education on policy related to drug and alcohol, how drug and alcohol testing is conducted, and health effects of drug and alcohol use and abuse.   

Employee training on the effects and consequences of prohibited drug use on personal health, safety, and work environment and manifestations and behavioral cues that may indicate drug use and abuse. The goal of employee training is to provide knowledge to: 

  • Understand the purpose and procedures of drug testing​. 
  • Recognize workplace problems that may be related to alcohol and other drugs. ​ 
  • Be familiar with signs and symptoms that may be the result of substance abuse​. 

Supervisor Training 

Supervisor training emphasizes responsibilities regarding “reasonable suspicion” determinations, detection, the recognition of substance use and alcohol abuse, methods of confronting an individual who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and how to document behaviors that lead to the determination to test.   

The reasonable suspicion training aims to give the supervisor the proper knowledge to:  

  • Understand the purpose and procedures of drug testing​. 
  • Recognize workplace problems that may be related to alcohol and other drugs. ​ 
  • Be familiar with signs and symptoms that may be the result of substance abuse​. 
  • Intervene in problem and crisis situations​. 
  • Be able to approach employees​. 
  • Initiate reasonable suspicion testing and complete proper documentation​. 
  • Feel confident about your responsibility for reasonable suspicion​. 
  • Protect employee confidentiality​. 
  • Continue to supervise employees who have been referred to assistance​. 
  • Avoid common supervisor traps. 

 Designated Employer Representative (DER) Training 

A DER is the person in charge of an employer’s drug and alcohol testing program as the testing program manager. A DER has a very important position, so it is essential to have a responsible person or persons to manage the drug testing program.   

A DER wears many hats, and training is necessary to avoid any setbacks in the drug testing program. The DER role is critical to an effective drug free workplace program and has the responsibility of knowing the company policy as well as any Federal or any state regulations that may affect the company. They also work together with service agents (MRO, labs, Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs), etc.) who can assist the DER in managing the program. A DER is an essential part of maintaining a drugfree workplace and is authorized by the employer to take immediate actions for removing individuals from duty and to make decisions regarding the testing program and test results. 

With the enormous obligations involved with the management of the testing program, training programs provide DERs insight on how to do their job and do it well. The DER training allows an employee to feel equipped and confident to lead your company’s drug and alcohol testing program as well as assist your company’s management with any decisions that must be made in relation to the program.  

Conclusion 

Current Consulting Group (CCG) offers educational courses to meet compliance needs, train staff, and educate employees. We offer training both in person and online. This allows you the flexibility to meet your organization’s needs in the most efficient and cost-effective ways. In-person training is more engaging, however the logistics of getting everyone together is sometimes difficult if not impossible under some circumstances and budgets. Online training can be done anywhere and anytime. If your company could benefit from training, please contact us at 954-944-0400 or email [email protected]. 

End Notes

¹ “2020 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Releases.”SAMHSA.gov, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, https://www.samhsa.gov/data/release/2020-national-survey-drug-use-and-health-nsduh-releases

² Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wyoming. 

© 2010-2023 The Current Consulting Group, LLC – No portion of this article may be reproduced, retransmitted, posted on a website, or used in any manner without the written consent of the Current Consulting Group, LLC. When permission is granted to reproduce this article in any way, full attribution to the author and copyright holder is required. 

 

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