Your employee gets injured. After seeking medical attention and taking time off to recover, he returns to work. He was prescribed painkillers and has told you he is still required to take them to be able to work comfortably. But then you start noticing a decline in his work performance and become concerned for his safety and the safety of others around him.
As a manager, you must stay current on your company’s drug tolerance policy to keep up with the many changes in drug use over the past several years, including the use of prescription drugs on the job. Maintaining an open dialogue with your team members so everyone is aware of drug use policies for safety reasons also can help. Here’s how you can help manage your employees taking legal drugs and, adhering to your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), you can keep your work environment safe for everyone.
Understanding the Laws
The Drug-Free Workplace Policy was easier to enforce when it dealt only with illegal drugs. But as the use of prescription painkillers has increased in the last several years, these policies need to be revised, according to the National Safety Council.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees’ use of over-the-counter or prescription drugs to treat a disability. Even if an employee’s performance is affected by prescription drugs, if he has taken the correct dosage, state disability laws or union contracts can limit the employer’s ability to impose disciplinary actions. This largely depends on state laws, safety guidelines and union contracts.
What an EAP Can Do
Some employers offer an Employee Assistance Program to provide services to employees for certain personal problems that could hinder the employee’s work performance. Examples include drug or alcohol dependency and family or financial issues. When a drug use problem is suspected, an EAP can provide the resources to confront the employee and encourage that employee to seek help from a treatment center or counseling services. The EAP can help both the employee and the employer through a transition period if the employee will miss work to undergo treatment.
Depending on your company’s policy, if substance abuse is suspected, the employer can require employees in positions where safety is an issue to seek EAP services before they are allowed to return to work. EAPs can provide counseling by phone or in-person for both the employee and their family members. Counselors can evaluate the employee and determine a treatment plan such as outpatient counseling, group programs or inpatient treatment solutions.
What Safety Managers Can Do
As the safety manager, you can provide your employees with the most current version of your company’s workplace policies for drugs. You should also understand the behavioral and performance-based signs of impairment as they relate to your industry and team members. Knowing and interacting with your team on a regular basis will help you determine whether an employee is acting “off” and may need additional monitoring.
Safety managers must also know the prompt that will determine if drug testing is required and make sure that trigger meets legal and policy requirements.
Lastly, safety managers should know the protocol for a workplace incident caused by an employee under the influence, making sure they are clear on the policy your company follows and what laws apply to the situation.
Keeping EAPs In Mind
Drugs are a serious concern in today’s work environments, especially those where safety is an immediate issue. Prescription painkillers present serious challenges because even when used under a doctor’s direction, they can impair an employee—putting everyone’s safety at risk. Safety managers should address this issue with their teams and monitor their behaviors and work performances to detect any substance abuse issues. Along with knowing the laws and policies, safety managers must be aware of the resources available to them or any employee who may need treatment.
Want more tips on making your job as a safety manager more efficient? Download our guide, 9 Ways to Make Your Job as a Safety Manager Easier.