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Addressing Alcohol and Drug Use in Safety-sensitive Industries

Most workplaces don’t allow employees to work if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, however, the only risk is for the employee themselves as they open up the risk of being disciplined or fired due to their actions. But when it comes to safety-sensitive industries, such as manufacturing, construction and transportation, the effects of alcohol and drug use can severely affect the safety of employees, management, customers and maybe the public. For these industries, employers need to implement policies that stop alcohol and drug use as well as provide help to those who come forward with substance abuse. This way a safer and healthier workplace environment can be created.

Industries such as manufacturing, construction and transportation are considered safety-sensitive industries due to the potential of accidents or injuries occurring being higher than others. Many workplaces within these industries handle dangerous machinery or hazardous materials and do activities that require an intense level of attention or the public ensures their safety. This is why those who work in these industries mustn’t consume alcohol or drugs before or during their working hours as that already high risk increases significantly and they are putting others in active danger just by going to their job. For example, at the end of 2022, a school bus driver in Ohio was arrested for drunk driving while they had 50 students onboard. The bus driver blew the legal limit by twice as their BAC was .138, and on top of that, they also had vodka in a sports drink bottle as they were driving the school bus. The bus driver put those children in danger just by showing up to drive, but they continued to put them in danger as they consumed that vodka.

So what can these workplaces do? A company has multiple options they can choose from; they can implement pre-employment screenings and random testing, develop a policy that is clear on the company’s view on alcohol and drug consumption, provide education programs and training, as well as provide assistance programs. All of these steps can help to stop situations like that bus driver from happening, the company that runs those school buses did alcohol breath tests at the end of a shift and that’s how they were able to catch this driver. Although it is important to discourage consumption and try to stop it from happening, sometimes people, unfortunately, have an addiction that can get out of hand. Workplaces must create a sense of trust between them and their employees as it will make it easier for those who have addictions to come forward as they won’t feel like they’ll get in trouble for telling. Having their company by their side as they go through a program or some kind of assistance can help make the road to recovery a lot easier.

Although a lot falls to the employee to not consume alcohol or drugs, the employer needs to be able to have a relationship with them so they are to work together to understand the safety risk consumption poses and what they can do if they feel like they are slipping away from that safety.

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