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Alcohol and Drugs in Workplace

Advocating for a Safe, Sober Workplace: Give Employees the Power

It’s not a comfortable fact of working life, but there are times when colleagues notice something is “off” with a coworker. It might be slurred speech or unusual behavior, it might be a strong scent, it may be accidents and other dangerous activity. 

People being under the influence of drugs or alcohol is part of some workplace landscapes. As marijuana, both medical and recreational, is increasingly legalized in municipalities, it has compounded the issue. In many industries — ranging from healthcare facilities to sprawling construction sites — people under the influence can pose a grave risk to their own safety and to the health and safety of others. 

Health experts say drunk or high workers are not at all unusual. This includes people who use substances at work and those who might be under the influence from the previous night or day. 

The influence of drugs and alcohol doesn’t mean a person is using at work. The effects of drugs and alcohol from the day or night before can spill over into the work day, meaning workers who feel like they are sober may, in fact, not be. A “hangover” often is a signal that a person is still under the influence. As we approach the holiday season, these incidents can become more common. (Certain dates, like Superbowl Sunday and mid-week celebrations also exacerbate the problem.) 

Confronting a colleague, even a friend, who is suspected of being under the influence can actually make the problem worse. If the person isn’t drunk or high, it can cause an unneeded conflict. If that person has an ADA-covered condition that is misunderstood by others, a confrontation can put a company at legal risk.

If the person is abusing drugs or alcohol, he or she can sometimes react in ways that heighten the tension and danger to others.

Empowering Workers

If a workforce feels empowered to report colleagues who are exhibiting dangerous behavior, it can increase safety in the workplace. If they can do it anonymously and responsibly, it can reduce potentially risky or dangerous situations. 

Mass notification solutions should offer companies and worksites a way for workers to report dangerous situations, including ones where colleagues might be under the influence. 

For example, Regroup’s TipSafe tool allows for anonymous incident reporting from any mobile device. Employees can use the network to alert the responsible parties that there is a danger or suspicious activity. 

TipSafe allows these parties (and this may be a construction site foreman, an HR manager, a hospital administrator, or a safety officer) to stay a step ahead of potential crises. Anonymous tips are routed to the appropriate personnel in a variety of formats.

  • As a text or voice message on mobile phones
  • As an email to computers, tablets and other internet-enabled devices
  • As a voice recording that can be routed to a dedicated voicemail system 

Other Situations

Some other workplace risky scenarios that can benefit from anonymous reporting:

  • A domestic violence situation where a colleague (and her or his co-workers) are in immediate risk. Workplace violence can also occur between colleagues and ex-colleagues. We have a free webinar on workplace violence.
  • A worker suspected of cutting corners on safety regulations or other needed protocols to keep people safe.
  • A worker who is stealing drugs or alcohol from work. For retail shops, hospitals and pharmacies it’s extremely important for workplace and public safety to give employees the tools to report this anonymously. 

Interested in hearing more? You can schedule a customized demo today