Next time you are at work, briefly take a step back and count how many people are in the room with you. For every 30 co-workers you see, there is one who likely has drugs or alcohol in his or her system. For those who like numbers, that breaks down to 3%. The number is even greater (6%+) when you separate out alcohol consumption. Addiction and substance abuse is very real in the modern workplace, and it is very dangerous.
Highlighting the problem is a story recently published by The Telegraph. The August 14 (2014) story focused primarily on substance-abusing workers who also operate company vehicles during the workday. Reporter Tim Gibson wrote that statistics show approximately 3.4% of company drivers take to the road on any given day, while over the legal limit for drink driving. That is pretty amazing. That means a little more than three out of every 100 employees driving a company vehicle has a dangerous level of alcohol in his or her system.
It is clear to see that substance abuse and addiction are not problems confined only to the home. They are problems that are very real in the workplace too. Unfortunately, it appears that employers do not understand the seriousness of the implications. They do not understand that they could be held liable if one of their workers causes an accident due to drink driving or another alcohol or drug-related offence.
The law is very clear when it comes to an employer’s obligation workers and the general public. Companies are required to take every reasonable action necessary to ensure a safe working environment for everyone involved. This includes road safety when company vehicles are involved.
This legal obligation implies that companies should have stringent policies in place to make sure impaired drivers do not get behind the wheel. Policies should include provisions for:
- Education – Companies have a responsibility to educate their workers about drug and alcohol use on the job.
- Awareness – Managers need to be trained in recognising the signs of substance abuse and misuse.
- Penalties – Companies need to develop enforceable penalties for workers who violate policies.
- Screening – Regular screening and monitoring needs to be part of the work environment.
It may seem a bit heavy-handed to take such a strict approach against drugs and alcohol in the workplace. However, it is necessary if safety is to be ensured. Companies can simply not take the risk of allowing impaired drivers on the road, where they could potentially injure or kill someone.
In cases where certain employees are identified as having substance abuse problems, the next step is encouraging them to seek treatment. It is one thing to prevent them from working; it is another thing to help them get well so they can return to work as soon as possible. We encourage companies to be involved by collaborating with other organisations to encourage treatment among substance abusers.
A company can be proactive by offering workers private health insurance as a benefit. How does that help? It helps the substance abuser by providing a way to pay for treatment at a private rehab clinic. Most clinics accept private health insurance, so it is a great way for employers to contribute tangibly to helping affected workers recover.
Here at Addiction Helper, our mission is to be a contact point between those who need help and the clinics providing the treatment. You may call our 24-hour addiction recovery helpline at any time for assistance in locating treatment for your drug or alcohol problem. We provide free advice, confidential evaluations, and referrals across the UK.