Updated: Jun 8
We have been nominated as the workplace drug and alcohol testing provider at this company for over five years. During this time, we have conducted scheduled random testing at most of their Australian workplace depots in an ad-hoc manner. However, we have never been required to conduct drug and alcohol testing in response to an incident/accident or near-miss. These types of tests are referred to as post-incident or reasonable suspicion testing, which is included in the Australian standards and the company’s drug and alcohol policy under Work Health and Safety Act 2011 – it’s just that nobody ever asks for it!
That was until the new WHS manager arrived a few months ago.
This manager had come from a smaller competitor organisation where post-incident testing was commonplace. He could not understand why drug and alcohol incident testing was not a required testing procedure at his new workplace. It was common practice and a vital part of the Drug & Alcohol (D&A) policy to maintain the health and safety of all employees. Operations were busy and complex. There were multiple depots employing lots of staff and only completing workplace drug testing or workplace alcohol testing once or twice a week there would be a near miss or some other occupational health and safety-related issue – and they were just the ones he heard about!
When he spoke to his supervisors about it, he got several different answers, “We’ve never done it”, “That’s only for extreme incidents”, “I think HR do that?” and so on. It was clear that there was a real problem – drug and alcohol risk within the workplace environment was failing to be adequately managed. As a WHS manager, he was ultimately responsible for ensuring the health and wellbeing of employees within the organisation. What could he do to create a safe workplace? Therefore, seeing results towards a safer work environment would require a significant change in mindset and culture.
When he asked us for advice, we were happy to work with him to find ways to raise awareness and see how we could support his managers. Together we developed a 4-step approach:
Step one – Remind everyone in the organisation about the drug and alcohol policy
Everybody needs to know the Australian workplace testing policies and how they should be consistently implemented within the workplace. Understanding the importance of workplace testing and the types of drugs and alcohol testing that can happen is crucial for all those within the organisation. In this company, policy awareness training was enforced when the program started – 5 years ago – but hadn’t been addressed since. We agreed the first step would be to roll out D&A policy refresher training for all staff that provided education on the drug and alcohol testing that occurred within the Australian workplace.
Step two – Help the supervisor cohort understand their role in the policy
All supervisors and managers must be aware of their responsibilities under the workplace safety policy. Most importantly, understand how to execute their set responsibilities to ensure health and safety standards are maintained. We recommended practical, scenario-based training to build confidence and empower the leadership team. Specifically, the supervisors received training in how to identify an impaired worker, communicate effectively with that worker, request a workplace drug and alcohol test and help both parties involved understand the testing results.
Step three - Support the supervisors on a day-to-day basis in this task
One training session will not produce the shift in mindset that is required. Training and education need to be followed up daily so that the supervisors and managers feel supported in their role – specifically, when, and how to request a drug and alcohol test within the workplace. Material such as checklists, assessment templates, refresher videos and language guides all work well to direct and support managers through the identification, communication, documentation, and management process.
Step four – Review the workplace drug and alcohol scheduled testing events
A consistent, regular program of random workplace testing throughout the organisation works to normalise drug and alcohol testing, sets workplace safety expectations, and makes it easier for supervisors and managers to request drug and alcohol testing following an incident or suspicion. More importantly, this organisation did not spend any more money on random occupational drug and alcohol testing. However, we helped them become smarter about when, where, and how many people were tested for drugs and alcohol in the workplace environment.
While in the initial days after supervisor training we saw an increase in post-incident test requests, it took a good 6 months before post-incident testing was at a consistent level. More than a year down the track, the WHS manager is happy with how his supervisors and managers are confidently arranging drug and alcohol testing and, more importantly, how they are proactively controlling risk right across the workplace to maintain the occupational health of all within the organisation.
DASA (Drug and Alcohol Solutions Australia) is proud to be leading the way in workplace drug and alcohol services throughout Australia. Whether your need is for workplace drug testing and workplace alcohol testing, advice on drug and alcohol policy or ideas on how to communicate your workplace expectations, policies and procedures to your staff, DASA can help. We have the experience, technical expertise and people to lead you to the right solution.