The Department of Labor (DOL) announced the first-ever Drug-Free Work Week is scheduled for October 16 – 22. The stated purpose is to educate employers, employees and the general public about the importance of being drug-free as a component of improving workplace safety and health and to encourage workers with alcohol and drug problems to seek help.
We recently discussed the high toll that substance abuse can take in the workplace, and the importance of implementing a drug-free program. In fact, certain employers are mandated by law to implement a drug-free workplace. Failure to have such a program can be costly for both employers and employees alike:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse cost the nation $246 billion annually, or nearly $1000 each for every man, woman and child.
  • Substance abuse problems cost American business an estimated $81 billion in lost production.
  • Up to 40 percent of industrial fatalities and nearly half of all industrial injuries can be linked to substance abuse.
  • One in five workers report that they have had to work harder, redo work, cover for a co-worker or have been put in danger or injured as a result a fellow employee’s drinking.
  • Substance abuse is estimated to cause 500 million lost workdays annually.

The DOL offers an extensive variety of suggested activities and programs that employers can implement at their work site, with links to other resources. Below, we are excerpting a few that we see as vital.

Implement a Drug-Free Workplace Program—Drug-Free Work Week is the perfect time to launch a Drug-Free Workplace Program if your organization does not already have one. Such programs are natural complements to other initiatives that help protect worker safety and health. To learn more about them, visit DOL’s Working Partners Web site. In particular, the site’s Drug-Free Workplace Advisor Program Builder offers detailed guidance on how to develop a Drug-Free Workplace Program, starting with the first step: a written policy.

Promote your Drug-Free Workplace Program—If your organization already has a Drug-Free Workplace Program, Drug-Free Work Week is a logical time to ensure the program is adequate to meet current needs and to remind employees about its important role in keeping them safe while on the job. One way to do this is to distribute to all employees a copy of your drug-free workplace policy, along with a positive message about valuing health and safety, and then provide an opportunity for them to ask questions about it, perhaps through an open forum or privately.

Train supervisors—Supervisors are the individuals closest to an organization’s workforce. As part of Drug-Free Work Week, organizations can conduct training to ensure supervisors understand their organization’s policy on alcohol and drug use; ways to deal with workers who have performance problems that may be related to substance abuse; and how to refer employees to available assistance. Working Partners offers more information on Supervisor Training, including ready-to-use training materials.

Educate workers—To achieve a drug-free workplace, it is critical that an organization educate its 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, guest speakers or brown-bag lunches. Working Partners offers more information on Employee Training, including ready-to-use training materials. If employee education is already a regular activity, a Drug-Free Work Week program could be offered on a specific timely topic such as the abuse of prescription drugs or methamphetamine.

Remind employees about the availability of EAP or MAP services—If your organization has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or Member Assistance Program (MAP), Drug-Free Work Week presents a perfect opportunity to remind them of its availability. Such programs offer free, confidential services to help all employees, including supervisors, resolve personal and workplace problems, such as substance abuse. They also offer confidential substance abuse screenings as well as brief intervention, if warranted, and help employees locate local treatment resources. Working Partners offers more information about EAPs.

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