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Information of interest to our Clients and for the industry

You suspect a worker is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, what’s next?

62% of harmful drug and alcohol users in Australia are employed fulltime. Let that sink in… Are you a manager or supervisor who has direct reports? If so, there’s a good chance that one or multiple workers may arrive for work under the influence at some point. Have you ever suspected that this was the case, what did you do?

Did you know that you can conduct a reasonable concern interview?

In high risk industries workers under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be harmful not only to themselves but to others; 25% of workplace accidents involve drugs or alcohol, which costs Australian businesses $680 million annually in days lost.

Can your business afford to be part of that?

So when is it time to conduct a reasonable concern interview?

  1. When another employee approaches you with concerns that a co-worker may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  2. Or upon observation of an individual displaying unusual or unsafe behaviour, which has aroused suspicions of drug or alcohol use

As soon as you suspect an employee to be under the influence, it’s best to err on the side of caution. It’s better to be risk adverse, safety conscious and consistent in enforcing the company’s Drug and Alcohol Management Program, which may prevent safety incidents, save dollars and possibly lives.

Once all parties are present, follow this guide when conducting a reasonable concern interview:

  • Inform the worker that their appearance, work performance or behaviour is a cause for concern that they may be misusing drugs or alcohol in the workplace which is why they have been requested for the interview – refer them to the company’s Drug and Alcohol Management Program.
  • Address the terms of confidentiality and advise them that the information collected will be treated with the strictest confidence and that subject to the law, any information collected will only be divulged to relevant persons for the purposes of managing health and safety.
  • Request the worker sign a Consent Form following the explanation of privacy and confidentiality. If they refuse, they may be in breach of the firm’s Drug and Alcohol Management Program.
  • Seek an explanation from the worker to ascertain a reason for their appearance, unsatisfactory work performance or behaviour.
  • Seek the worker’s perspective on workplace factors contributing to the initial event of concern. If any workplace factors are raised they should be referred to relevant WHS or HR representatives.
  • The content of the interview must be recorded in detail a using Drug and Alcohol Interview Record.

Once the interview is complete, if you are satisfied with the explanation given by the worker and you are of the opinion that there is less than a reasonable concern of misuse, the worker should be thanked and cleared to go back to work. If however, you suspect with reasonable concern that the worker is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, in accordance with the company Drug and Alcohol Management Program, drug and alcohol testing should be undertaken, and they should not return to work until cleared.

Of course, none of this can be done unless you actually have a Drug and Alcohol Management Program in place which clearly outlines how you manage the risk of drug and alcohol misuse in the workplace. Read: The biggest pitfalls in workplace drug and alcohol policies

Ensure that your business is protected from drug and alcohol use in the workplace with drug and alcohol management advice and pre-employment and ongoing drug and alcohol screening.

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