Issues associated with workplace substance use are complex. You need your employees' help to gain an accurate understanding of the substance misuse issues in your workplace and plan and implement a successful policy and program. Employee support also can lend credibility to the policy and program.
Each business or organization must customize its drug-free workplace policy and program to meet its legal and safety requirements, reflect the characteristics of its employees, and enhance the image and values of the organization.
Employees are more likely to comply with the requirements if they participate in the process of developing and implementing the policy and program. Whenever possible, build consensus about the policy and program by seeking input from your employees from the beginning. Workers who understand and support your drug-free workplace policy and program are much more likely to encourage others to do so.
Choosing Team Members
Your team's size and composition will depend on the number of employees and how your organization is structured. If your organization is small, the team may consist of you and a point person. If your organization is large, you will need a larger team organized into sub-teams to ensure that all job sites or divisions are represented.
Your team's mission is to help you:
- Gain a complete understanding of substance use problems in your workplace and the best ways to address them
- Develop, implement, and promote support for your drug-free workplace policy and program
Your team should include employees who:
- Will give you reliable information about substance use problems (not just say what they think you want to hear)
- Are representative of the rest of your employees, reflecting their racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity
- Believe in the concept of a drug-free workplace policy and program as a strategy for making the workplace safe, protecting workers' health, and increasing productivity
- Believe in encouraging coworkers to seek help for substance use-related problems
- Are trusted by you and the rest of your employees
- Communicate well
- Are knowledgeable about personnel issues in general and your organization’s policies in particular
- Understand the legal and safety requirements relevant to your industry and the types of safety-sensitive job positions in your workplace
It is unlikely that everyone on your team will have all these characteristics. If your team as a whole exhibits these characteristics, you have chosen well.
As applicable to your organization, you may want to invite the following types of employees to serve on your team: CEOs; managers; supervisors; union officials (if your employees are unionized); other employee representatives; the director of your human resources or personnel department; directors of other key departments or functions, such as labor relations, risk management, security, occupational safety and health, and public affairs; and in-house legal counsel.
In certain circumstances, you may want to also include an outside expert on your team.
Team Tasks and Responsibilities
Your team should accomplish four major tasks:
- Form as accurate and complete a picture as possible of the organization's substance use problems by collecting information from your employees through informal discussions or meetings; anonymous surveys; review of nonconfidential documents containing aggregated data (that is, data that cannot be traced to an individual worker) regarding substance use-related accidents; review of press coverage (of any substance use–related accidents); and other appropriate means.
- Agree on the nature of the organization's substance use problems.
- Agree on the content and language of a drug-free workplace policy that will address these problems and meet applicable legal and safety requirements.
- Agree on the elements of a drug-free workplace program and on the activities that will be performed to implement, promote, and evaluate your program.
Team Approach Examples
How your team can best accomplish their tasks depends on many factors, including the number of people you employ, your organization's structure, and other characteristics of your business. No single way is right for all situations. Here are a few examples of possible approaches for organizations of different sizes.
You might opt to appoint a point person and have all your employees serve on your team. During a meeting with all employees, announce your intention of developing a drug-free workplace policy and program, outline the rationale for the policy and program, and explain that you want everyone to participate in the process of developing and implementing the policy and program.
You and your point person could create a brief, anonymous survey consisting of questions about substance use problems in your organization; other issues affecting worker safety, health, and productivity; and proposed elements of the organization's drug-free workplace policy and program. You could then use the survey to solicit employee responses.
At the end of the response period, review the surveys, summarize the responses, and meet with employees to review the survey results. At the meeting, form a consensus on the nature of the organization's substance use concerns, and the best strategies for addressing them and meeting any applicable legal and safety requirements.
Reach agreement on the content and language of the drug-free workplace policy, the elements of the drug-free workplace program, and how the program will be implemented, promoted, and evaluated during subsequent meetings.
If your organization is midsize, you could appoint your human resources director as your point person. Your team also might include senior supervisors and a union official, if applicable. Your team could obtain information about substance use problems in your organization by disseminating a short, anonymous survey; reviewing relevant organizational documents; and reviewing press coverage of any substance use-related incidents. You could hold weekly meetings over a predetermined period to reach agreement on the substance use problems affecting your employees; the content and language of the drug-free workplace policy; the elements of the program; and how best to implement, promote, and evaluate the program.
If your organization is large, you may want to designate a vice president or your human resources director as your point person. You could ask that person to provide a plan of action for developing and implementing the policy and program. You could also ask for a recommendation on whether one or more outside experts should be hired to assist you.
Solicit input from your point person on the composition, size, and structure of your team. If your organization includes multiple worksites, you should have at least one representative per worksite on your team.
You could organize your core team into sub-teams and ask each team to take charge of one aspect of the drug-free workplace policy and program (for example, understanding legal and safety requirements, or developing the content and language for the drug-free workplace policy). Your point person or a sub-team could obtain information about the organization's substance use problems by disseminating a short anonymous survey to your employees, reviewing relevant organizational documents, and reviewing press coverage of substance use-related incidents. You could ask that the team meet every week or every other week until they have completed their tasks.