Substance Abuse Affects the Workplace and Working Environment

Many different studies provide the information and recommendation which might be useful for employers who intent to prevent or stop drug use or abuse with alcohol. Mostly programs have a goal to educate manager and supervisor to deal with people who are in so-call “risk group”, to work out substance abuse policy of a company, to show the way to help employees and to implement the drug and alcohol testing.

It’s important to remember that such programs help not only to identify substance abuser and to help him but also to reduce employers’ responsibility for workplace accidents connected with drug or alcohol use.

Employer should understand why it’s important to implement alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs at the workplace. First of all, these programs can be handled to large audience because most adult people are employed and spend biggest part of their time at work. The fact that such programs will take a place at work and the problem with alcohol can become visible might help to prevent the growth of problem. It’s also worthy of reminding that works plays one of the most important roles for almost every member of a modern society. Most adult people have their own family, friends and close people and their work is a mean to support their family and to present their status in a society. They are afraid of losing it and it may be a good mean for an employer to influence on him. If an employer can express his requirement to perform work in a proper way motivating an employee with privileges or part of payment which he can lose, then it can help to change employee’s behavior (Terza, 2002).

Such programs have two stages. The first one aims to prevent alcohol problem developing and the second one to reduce this problem if it already exists. Most companies concentrate their efforts at the second stage because the first one is more costly and has less evident result. At the same time it’s difficult to control the situation because all adult employees have legal right to buy alcohol and employers cannot control them in after-work time.

These programs are famous as employee assistance programs as well. The services provided with them are normally different but most of them include training for managers and supervisors to identify alcohol or drug abuse, the possibility to estimate the volume of this problem, make diagnosis and help employees with treatment. Such programs presuppose co-operation with special organizations and help for employees after treatment provided. EAPs have an advantage that they work not only to reduce and eliminate drinking at the workplace but they work with potential drinkers who use alcohol out of the workplace because this problem also influences the working process and co-workers (Mueller, 2002).

The main way to influence such employees is through education problems which promote health way of living. During the usual health examination a person who is responsible for this activity may notice such symptoms as overweight, high blood pressure or problems with digestion and he can propose to attend such short-term program. It can help for drinkers to change his drinking habits.

Educational and assistant programs should involved not only manager, supervisors and people who are abused with alcohol but those ones who simply work with them every day as they may notice symptoms that influence the job performance earlier than they will become evident for a supervisor.

As for the drug testing and preventing it the major problem which employers may face with is law restriction. Most testing programs are based on federal programs established by Executive Order and signed by President Reagan Sept. 15, 1986 (Garcia, 1996). Such programs are used to identify the most popular drugs such as opiates, cocaine, marijuana, phencyclidine and amphetamines. These testing programs can help to reduce significantly the amount of workers who use drugs but in some states it’s forbidden to use such tests. Besides they cost relatively high.
In such case the only one way to influence drug abused employee and to eliminate this problem at the company is implementing a strong discipline policy which may be much helpful than any talks and programs.

As for the actions which should be taken by a manager or supervisor then having any doubts about employee’s state he should be removed from the work at first. This is the only way to take time for decision, to protect employee and his co-workers from injury during the working process and it will help to avoid a workers’ compensation claim.

As an example I work at a company that works with providing its clients with wireless telecom tech, and sometimes this work includes some repairing and installing works that need to be done on some height above the ground. The company have been in a business for some time and had good recommendations so many people trust it. The matter is that the bosses and managers always trusted usual workers of a company, because they never had any accidents or occasions that could put some negative opinion on the name of a company, and that’s why there never were any alcohol tests or some prophylactic programs on that matter. Of course, according to the law every worker passed through the course of safety norms, but nothing more has been done.

So one day, while doing some repairs a worker fell down from the ladder being on several meters height and got injured. Fortunately injures were not serious, but anyway, the bosses and the managers were informed about the accident. And as it turned out the same day, an alcohol was found in a blood of a man who fell down. He was not much drunk, but that was enough on that day to make him lose concentration and balance while working. But the worst was not only this, what really surprised the bosses of a company, is that all the other members of a technical group were also a bit drunk.

That was a real shock for the company and it started its inner investigation to find out who was guilty in what happened and who’s to blame. Is this only the worker and technical group who let themselves drink while being on a working place, is this the manager of a group who allowed drunk workers go to a working place, or maybe he didn’t notice that they were in such a condition, or is this the whole system and philosophy of a company that due to its rules and trusting attitude to the workers allowed it to happen. The results of the investigation were not really good. It showed that technical group used alcohol on a working place pretty often in order to make a group to be a cohesive team. The company was shocked and of course they couldn’t leave it all in such a way. First of all they were going to fire the man who fell down from the ladder and to renew the whole technical group step by step. But taking into consideration the life situation of a man they were going to fire, that he has a family and a small child, and also that it was only his guilty in what had happened, but also the company’s attitude, rules and absence of the appropriate control they decided to leave everyone working, but they arranged special courses, lections and the system of control in the company. It all lead to a situation, there even on corporative holidays there have never been any alcohol any more. It should be noted to say that even after that case and after all the measures that company has made, several workers were caught up being under the influence of alcohol, and they were fired, but most of the workers never used alcohol any more on a working place.





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Garcia, F.E. (1996). The determinants of substance abuse in the workplace. The Social Science Journals, 33(1), 55-68.
Mueller, C.W., Mulinge, M., Glass, J. (2002). Interactional Processes and Gender Workplace Inequalities. Social Psychology Quarterly, 65(2), 163-185.
Negura, L., Maranda, M. (2008). Hiring substance abusers: Attitudes of managers and organizational needs. Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy, 15(2), 129-144.
Terza, J.V. (2002). Alcohol Abuse and Employment: A Second Look. Journal of Applied Econometrics, 17(4), 393-404.

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