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Choose to Address Substance Abuse

Employers faced with the challenging conversation around substance abuse are often ill equipped to handle it.

They’ll ultimately either ignore it or come down punishingly on the individual in question. However, there’s a way to be both tactful and empathetic that might ultimately bring an employee an even better place than they’ve ever been.

With drug and alcohol abuse at an all-time high in the United States, combined with record low levels of unemployment, the challenge of finding viable workers who can pass a drug test is tougher than ever.

However, most can agree there is no room for risking a blind eye towards this issue. Safety rules and regulations are challenged daily in the workplace, particularly in a manufacturing environment where the labor is physical. With the various hazards that are possible at any given moment, employers are at great risk if an employee is actively performing job duties while impaired.

Companies need to have a clearly defined strategy as to how they will deal with substance infractions.

A common, and quite fair, method is a one-strike policy.

As soon as the first offense occurs, a warning should be delivered and if appropriate, the employer can put the worker in touch with the necessary resources to get help, stay sober and be a proactive contributor. A second violation results in termination.

There is the challenge that comes with trying to help. As humans, we grow close to our team. We care. It hurts to see them hurting or in trouble. However that cannot cloud the judgement in how to approach substance abuse because just as they are hurting themselves, they are not only also hurting those around them by putting others at risk. Many will fail to accept any help, and may return to bad habits and decisions. Ultimately the outcome is up to the will and decision of the employee.

The likelihood of employees getting injured increases three and a half times if and when they are under the influence. According to Nova Recovery Center, 47% of serious injury accidents in the workplace and 40% ending in death are related to, or a result of, drugs and alcohol.

The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) reports that substance abuse results annually in roughly $100 billion dollars of loss. This staggering figure illustrates how addiction impacts more than the user –  drugs and alcohol can cause severe financial hardship to a company if not handled properly.

There is hope in helping – assuming the employee lets you. People in recovery value the opportunity to work and make a living. It provides a necessary element of structure to maintain a productive and wholesome life. So while the initial conversations about the issues at hand may be difficult, when handled appropriately it could change someone’s life and create an even better employee. Don’t wait a minute longer to address this difficult topic!