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Alcohol and Drug Awareness in the workplace: a Supervisor’s guide

Drug and alcohol misuse represents a significant hazard to the health and safety of employees, contractors, visitors and others impacted by the activities performed by any organisation.

Are you a supervisor or manager with direct reports? If so, there’s a reasonable chance that one or more of your direct reports will come to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol at some stage. If you suspect that is the case, what should you do?

Identifying and confronting issues of substance abuse is an awkward and complicated task, particularly in the workplace. However, handled with professionalism and compassion, the outcome can be positive for both the employer and employee.

As the main point of contact for the worker, no one is better positioned to note significant behavioural changes that affect performance than the supervisor. Careful handling of the substance misuse process will help ensure the best outcome for both parties.

Here are some tips for avoiding pitfalls when handling suspected substance misuse in the workplace:

As a supervisor or manager, your key obligation is to maintain a safe, secure and productive environment.

Some of the obligations to ensure this include:

  • Implementing your organisation’s drug and alcohol management system as it has been issued
  • Not imposing unreasonable pressures on your employees that might result in an increased risk of drug and alcohol misuse
  • Regularly evaluating and discussing performance with your staff
  • Keeping an eye out for any signs of misuse
  • Ensuring you maintain individuals’ privacy at all times
  • Acting in a manner that doesn’t demean or belittle people – including labelling them

Remember that it is not your responsibility to:

  • Diagnose drug and alcohol problems
  • Provide counselling or therapy
  • Judge people

Be open, upfront and proactive about your expectations and maintain an open dialogue about drug and alcohol misuse.

Company policies and procedures vary by industry and company size, but regardless of how many employees you may have, the rules and repercussions should be clearly explained to all employees up front. Spread awareness of your company policy by including it in employee manuals and training sessions. Find out more.

Ensure you are fully aware of your company’s drug and alcohol policy and procedures and educate your employees.

An organisation’s drug and alcohol management policy is intended to:

  • Protect the health and safety of all employees, customers and the public
  • Maintain product and service quality and company integrity and reputation
  • Comply with relevant legislation

Share it with your employees from the day they join the organisation and start the conversation before there are any issues.

Report any suspected drug and alcohol misuse straight away and learn to recognise the possible symptoms of impairment.

Recognising and confronting the signs of drug and alcohol use can be difficult, as it is a sensitive subject and the issue must be dealt with consistently, fairly and whilst maintaining individuals’ privacy.

For more detailed information about recognising the signs of drug and alcohol misuse, contact Work Options

If you have the slightest concern or suspicion of drug or alcohol misuse, it is your legal obligation to question it immediately.

It is always better to act and be wrong than to not act and have an accident occur as a result. If your concerns are genuine, you will need to approach the person concerned.

Deal with any individual suspected of drug and alcohol use with empathy.

As a supervisor, you have a duty of care to your employees. When dealing with someone who may be affected, treat them fairly and reasonably and ensure you respect their privacy at all times.

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