Participate in Drug-Free Work Week

18 March 2008

Drug-Free Work Week is sponsored by the US Department of Labor in coordination with the 13 members of its Drug-Free Workplace Alliance, which SC&RA joined in 2005. This cooperative programme, which represents both employer/contractor associations and labour unions, aims to improve safety and health through drug-free workplace programmes.

Although Drug-Free Work Week is a US programme, it deals with a universal problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 76.3 million people worldwide suffer from alcohol disorders and another 15.3 million have drug use disorders.

In Europe, the social costs of alcohol consumption alone amounts to up to 3% of gross domestic product, or as much as US$200 million. WHO's regional office for Europe also notes “about 70% of the total costs represent lost earnings of individuals who die prematurely or are unable to perform their productive tasks in the way they would have if they had not been consuming alcohol.”

But there is hope. For every dollar invested in substance abuse treatment, seven dollars are saved in health and social costs, according to WHO.

Drug-Free Work Week focuses on the construction industry because research indicates ithas higher than average rates of worker alcohol and drug abuse – a serious concern given it is also among the industries with the highest rates of workplace accidents and injuries. A study released 16 July by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that illicit drug use among construction workers was 15.1%, second only to food service workers at 17.4%. The rate of illicit drug use among transportation and material movers was 8.4%.

Member support

Most of the United States'approximately 16.4 million current illicit drug users and 15 million heavy alcohol users hold full-time jobs. Consequently, the workplace may be the best place to address the problem. Below are specific suggestions for how SC&RA members everywhere can support Drug-Free Work Week:

Implement a Drug-Free Workplace programme Such programmes are natural complements to other initiatives that help protect worker safety and health. To get started, visit the Working Partners web site at www.dol.gov/ working partners. This US Department of Labor site offers detailed guidance on how to develop a programme, starting with the first step: a written policy.

Promote Your Drug-Free Workplace programme If your company already has a programme, Drug-Free Work Week is a logical time to remind employees about its important role in keeping them safe. One way to do this is to distribute a copy of your drug-free workplace policy to all employees, along with a positive message about valuing their health and safety.

Train supervisors As part of Drug-Free Work Week, companies could provide training to supervisors to ensure they understand the company's policy on alcohol and drug use; ways to deal with workers who have performance problems that may be related to alcohol and drug use; and how to refer employees to available assistance. Ready-to-use training materials are available on the Working Partners web site.

Educate workers To achieve a drug-free workplace, companies should educate their workers about the nature of alcohol and drug use and its negative impact on workplace safety and productivity. Drug-Free Work Week is a natural time to step up such efforts through training sessions or brown-bag lunches. A guest speaker could be brought in to deliver a workshop or you may use the training materials available on the Working Partners web site to develop and deliver your own in-house training session. Remind employees about the availability of assistance If your company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Drug-Free Work Week is a great time to remind employees about it. EAPs offer free, confidential services to help employees resolve personal and workplace problems, including alcohol and drug abuse. They may also offer educational programmes, confidential substance abuse screenings and help employees locate local treatment resources.

Offer health screening Companies can use Drug-Free Work Week to encourage employees to look at their own use of alcohol and drugs and privately determine if they need help to change their behaviour. For example, they can inform employees about the confidential, self-administered online screening tool www.alcoholscreening.org and, if possible, provide access to the internet in a private location in case they want to use it. Confidential screenings by qualified professionals could also be offered by the EAP, health unit and/or occupational nurse.

Compile a list of local resources Whether or not your company has an EAP or health unit, help for alcohol and drug abuse is likely to be available through a nearby hospital, public health department or substance abuse treatment centre. Draft a list of local resources and post or distribute it, along with a message such as “It is important to work drug free, but if you cannot, help is available.”To locate resources in your community, visit www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov or phone +1 800 662 HELP. Also, self-help programmes, such as the 12-step programmes of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon, are free and widely available.

Review your health insurance policy Coverage for substance abuse treatment makes it more likely that employees struggling with alcohol and drug problems will get the help they need. Review your health insurance policy to see if substance abuse treatment is covered, and if it is not, consider discussing the prospect of adding coverage with the person who handles your company's health benefits.

Allow employees time to volunteer in community drug prevention efforts Drug-Free Work Week offers a chance to show commitment to prevention both inside and outside the workplace. One way to do this is to offer employees time off to volunteer to assist with efforts to prevent substance abuse in the larger community or organize a team of volunteers to support a local prevention initiative. Such efforts often are coordinated by schools, faith-based organizations and community anti-drug coalitions. For more information, contact Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America at www.cadca.org

Create a drug-free workplace display Use Drug-Free Work Week to freshen up bulletin boards in break areas or other locations that employees frequent by posting positive messages about the importance of being drug-free to their safety and that of their co-workers. The Working Partners web site has posters to help you get started. Other materials could include a copy of the company's drug-free workplace policy, a list of local and national helplines, and EAP contact information, if applicable. Feature Drug-Free Work Week in the employee newsletter or intranet Drug-Free Work Week offers timely and fresh content for an employee newsletter or internal web site. Articles could be on a range of topics, including general information about substance abuse and its impact in the workplace environment; sources of help for workers with substance abuse problems; and actions workers can take if they think a colleague may have a substance abuse problem. An easy way to do this is to use one or more “drop-in” articles available on the Working Partners web site.

Distribute a payroll message listing helplines or a reminder about Drug-Free Work Week for employees Paycheques are one thing that every employee pays attention to. Offer additional value during Drug-Free Work Week by including a leaflet or message listing sources of help for those with substance abuse problems or a simple reminder that it is Drug-Free Work Week and a good time to re-commit to working drug-free. An easy way to do this is to print and reproduce a ready-to-use payroll message from the Working Partners web site.

Hold a social event celebrating safety and health A social event with plenty of food, fun and non-alcoholic drinks can help reinforce the importance of being drug free to working safely and remind workers that alcohol is not necessary to unwind and relax. The theme for such an event could be one of general health and wellness, with door prizes such as gift certificates for local health clubs or recreational activities.

SC&RA's commitment to eradicating substance abuse in the workplace extends well beyond Drug-Free Work Week. The association will continue to address this problem with members around the world through articles in its official publications and major meetings.

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