What Makes a Good Drug-Free Workplace Program?


What Makes a Good Drug-Free Workplace Program?

By Adam Hall, Staff Writer & Editor at Current Consulting Group (CCG)

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

Safety should be at the top of the priority list for any employer, regardless of what industry an organization serves. Among the many components that contribute to workplace safety is the establishment of a well-rounded drug-free workplace program. There are key elements that make a program effective. In this article we will identify those elements and provide a closer look at how they are uniquely important to the overall program.

Written Policy

The cornerstone of a successful drug-free workplace program is a fully comprehensive policy. The purpose of this policy is to identify who is covered or required to adhere to the policy. Is everyone within the organization covered? Or does the policy only pertain to a certain group of individuals, perhaps those performing safety-sensitive functions? Whether it is all or some, the policy should clearly define who is covered.

Another purpose of a written policy is to lay out the parameters of the testing requirements. Specific details regarding who will be subject to random testing, how often random testing occurs, what constitutes an accident requiring a post-accident test, supervisor training requirements, what substances are banned and so forth. Beyond testing parameters, the policy must clearly define what a violation is, and what consequence each violation carries. Specific entities should be identified, such as the company’s designated employee representative (DER), or who the employee assistance program resource is.

In a nutshell, the company policy is the bread-and-butter document that should hold all the answers pertaining to a drug-free workplace. If a policy is missing certain items, amendments should be made so there is never any confusion for those required to adhere to the requirements set forth by the policy. Lastly, policies should be reviewed regularly to ensure they are up to date and meet all company expectations.

Employee Education

Next in the process is employee education. While this may sometimes be thought of as part of supervisor training, it is different because it pertains to all employees, not just supervisors. Employee education primarily focuses on ensuring every employee who is expected to adhere to the company policy fully understands the policy. In other words, if employees are going to be held accountable, the company needs to be accountable for making sure every employee understands prohibited conduct.

Consider the following example. If a company is operating in a state that allows recreational use of marijuana, but still chooses to ban the use of marijuana for all employees, they must inform all employees of the prohibited conduct, or banned substances. In most states, a company is well within their right to do this. However, if the company never educates employees on their particular policy, it could easily be argued that an employee using recreational marijuana was never aware they were engaging in prohibited conduct.

Ensuring that each employee, new and old, is familiar with the company drug testing policy is the key purpose of employee education. Providing this information at the time of onboarding is the best practice to avoid any gaps in the education process, and possibly even including refresher education on a consistent basis, or whenever an amendment is made to the policy.

Supervisor Training

Supervisor training may be viewed as another form of employee education, but it only applies to supervisors who may need to enforce certain aspects of the drug testing program. Specifically, if an employee’s behavior is called into question, this training will equip supervisors with the necessary tools to decide whether a reasonable suspicion test should be administered, or some other action should be taken.

Training requirements for supervisors should be clearly outlined in the company policy. Requirements might include a one-time training course for supervisors or set recurring training requirements such as once every other year.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

Drug and alcohol testing may seem like an obvious component of a drug-free workplace, but it is often overlooked by companies, or at the very least not executed properly. The bottom line is that if certain parameters for drug and alcohol testing are established by the policy, those parameters should be met. It would not make sense for a policy to identify annual random percentage requirements, but then the company never performs a single random test.

Like a written policy being viewed as the cornerstone of an effective program, drug and alcohol testing can be thought of as the capstone. The policy has all aspects of the program covered, proper employee education and supervisor training has occurred, and following through with testing requirements will fulfill all goals of the drug-free workplace program.


Drug-free workplace programs may include additional beneficial components than those discussed in this article, specifically resources for employees such as employee assistance programs (EAPs). EAPs can provide the necessary support to employees seeking help for drug or alcohol related issues, or even issues beyond drug or alcohol use. However, a written policy, employee education, supervisor education, and drug testing are the critical building blocks for a successful drug-free workplace program, and with a better understanding of these components, a safe work environment can be obtained.

© 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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