Five “Common Mistakes” in Workplace Drug & Alcohol Policies & Procedures

A technically correct Policy & Procedure is the basis of any successful Drug and Alcohol Management Program (DAMP).

It should comprise a range of strategies including education / awareness training, employee assistance programs, alcohol and other drug testing and procedures for breach of Policy or Procedure.

Failure to develop a technically correct Policy and Procedure and subsequent failure to adhere to it will invariably cause major issues!!!

  • Whilst a one or two page Policy is ideal, a similar sized Procedure will not address all required components.
  • The Policy and Procedure must be practical and workable in a real environment.
  • This is often an issue when such documents are prepared by lawyers or persons inexperienced with a DAMP.
  • A “patchwork” Policy & Procedure made up of several templates from the internet will rarely be workable in your specific workplace.
  • Does the Policy or Procedure refer to correct Australian Standards, WHS Laws or other Legislation relevant to your industry?
  • Is there a clear and defined alcohol and other drug testing procedure in place?
  • Are there ambiguities or “grey areas” regarding what constitutes a breach of policy?
  • Has your Policy & Procedure been implemented correctly?
  • Staff should sign off and acknowledge the Policy & Procedure before you can enforce it.

So, what are 5 common mistakes in Alcohol and other Drug Policies & Procedures?

1 Use of terms such as “under the influence” or “impairment”. These issues are very difficult, if not impossible, to prove and should not determine a breach of policy or even a general approach to conforming.

2 Failure to adequately define terms used in the Procedure. Absence of a “definitions” section results in ambiguity which leads to “loopholes”.

3 Inconsistency. For example, combining urine and saliva testing in the same procedure when one tests for recent exposure the other tests for historical use.

4 Failure to document the actual testing procedure. For example all testing to be conducted with a nominated independent testing agency with procedures compliant to Australian Standards.

5 Omitting guidelines to manage either prescribed or over the counter medication. These can be managed effectively and satisfactorily with guidelines making up a few paragraphs.

Case Study – Perkins Vs Golden Plains Fodder – South Australia

An employee was dismissed from employment for refusing to submit to a request for a drug test. The matter was referred to the Commissioner who found in favour of the employee.

Employer mistakes included:

  • Policy and Procedure inconsistent and unclear.
  • Rationale referred to impairment rather than fitness for work.
  • Compliance with the Policy and Procedure extended to the conduct of the employees private life which was determined to be “harsh and unreasonable” (Urine testing).
  • The type of testing to be conducted was not defined in the Policy or Procedure.
  • The Drug & Alcohol Policy was “not even understood by its authors who had attempted to elevate it to a purpose it was never able to or intended to achieve”.

“He who fails to plan, plans to fail.”

Winston Churchill

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