A surprising number of construction employees are frequent users of alcohol and drugs. Among full-time construction workers 18 to 64, 11.6 percent are considered heavy drug users, with 16.5 percent considered heavy alcohol users and 14.3 percent having a substance use disorder.
While employers generally avoid telling employees what they can do during off hours, it’s also important to make sure your workplace is as safe as possible. And for your job-site to remain safe, you’ll want to create policies and procedures that minimize the potential for drug use to impact your construction activities.
Why Drugs Are a Problem for Construction Job-Sites
Drug use on and away from your construction job-site can be a problem for several reasons.
· Intoxication and safety. For starters, if an employee shows up to work intoxicated by alcohol or another cognitively impairing substance, they’re not going to be able to operate safely. These types of illicit substances can impair your judgment, delay your reaction time, distort your sensory perceptions, and interfere with your thinking and physical movements in countless ways. Safety is already difficult to maintain in a sober environment; it’s even more difficult to maintain in an environment where one or more people are intoxicated. Also, even if an employee is sober, frequent drug use can leave them feeling tired or impaired generally.
· Productivity and efficiency. Employees who use drugs and alcohol are more likely to be absent and are typically less productive than their sober counterparts. If you’re trying to meet a deadline or finish the project as efficiently as possible, employee drug use is going to stand in your way.
· Morale. Frequent substance abuse can also affect employee morale. If there’s even one member of the team frequently abusing alcohol and drugs, the other workers will likely notice; this may make them feel unsafe, make them feel like their employer is indifferent, or make them resentful that employees aren’t being treated fairly.
Creating a Drug-Free Construction Job-Site
How can you establish a drug-free construction job-site?
· Establish a written policy for your program. The first step of the process is establishing a written policy for your program. Be as clear and as detailed as possible in this document, and make sure all of your employees read and understand it. This document will outline your policy for dealing with issues related to substance use in and outside of the workplace; it’s up to you how strict you want to be. If you have a zero-tolerance policy, you may reserve the right to fire an employee if they fail a random drug test.
· Educate employees. Next, educate your employees on the dangers of substance use and the importance of maintaining a safe construction environment. When employees fully realize the consequences of substance abuse, they’ll be less likely to indulge.
· Train your supervisors. It’s also important to educate and train your supervisors on how to detect the signs that someone is using illicit substances. If supervisors can notice aberrant behavioral patterns proactively, they can remove problematic employees from the job-site before any accidents can occur.
· Consider providing employee assistance programs (EAPs). Employee assistance programs (EAP) are resources designed to help employees who may be struggling with drug or alcohol use. If available, EAPs can provide further education to employees, connect them with community resources, and support them on their journey to sobriety. These programs aren’t mandatory, but they can be helpful for employees genuinely struggling with a substance use disorder.
· Consider implementing drug testing. There are many types of drug testing you can implement. For example, you could implement random testing, which is done on random individuals and at random intervals. This approach is best if you’re trying to establish a zero-tolerance policy. You could also implement reasonable suspicion testing, testing only people you reasonably suspect might be using drugs or alcohol on the job. Another option is to implement post-accident testing – only testing a person after an accident. Just make sure your drug testing practices are compliant with all applicable laws and regulations, including OSHA guidelines.
· Allow employees to return to work only when truly ready. If an employee was removed from the job-site or disciplined because of drug or alcohol use, don’t allow them back to work until you’re confident they’re truly ready. A return-to-duty test or follow-up drug test can help you feel more confident bringing an employee back onto the job-site; your employee needs to demonstrate that the substance use will no longer be a problem.
Maintaining a drug free job-site can keep everyone in your construction company safer and more productive. With the help of a more specific policy, employee education programs, EAPs, and a sensible approach to drug testing, you should be in a much better position to maintain a healthy workplace environment.