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Why don't we get off the fence?


WE IN THE SECURITY INDUSTRY are involved in a pitched battle against the individuals who manufacture, transport, and sell illegal substances. They have unlimited resources--cash, transportation, weapons, and personnel. The best efforts of law enforcement, at any level, cannot defeat them alone. Society will not be successful in reducing substance abuse until people work together to keep pushers out of our schools and businesses and off the streets.

The federal government recognizes the magnitude of this growing national crisis and has enacted legislation to solicit the help of the nation's businesses. The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 mandates the establishment of comprehensive substance abuse programs by federal contractors, federal grant recipients, or anyone operating under federal funding exceeding $25,000. Included in the requirements are an employee awareness program and penalties for any employee manufacturing, transporting, selling, and using illegal substances. Employers without federal funding may see requirements imposed by state governments.

Some employers, however, refuse to believe they are affected. They would prefer not to make a decision, to sit on the fence rather than decide on a course of action. They do not take the time or make the effort to understand the cost of absenteeism, theft, on-the-job accidents, or slowed production--all of which may be attributed to substance abuse. When faced with making a decision or looking the other way, some employers take the stance that "it doesn't do any good," "our attorney advises against it," or "I can't afford to fight these people." These are excuses based on ignorance.

A primary requirement when dealing with substance abuse is to adopt a fair, comprehensive policy that addresses situations that may arise in the workplace. Most employees would like to eliminate substance abuse from their job sites; these employees should be considered in the formulation of policy. Once the policy is written, it should be communicated to the entire work force--verbally and in writing.

The next step involves the supervisor or manager, who is a key player in this battle. He or she has the daily opportunity to observe behavior and document activity. It is this documentation that helps provide what the courts call probable cause. Once reasonable suspicions are documented and analyzed, the employer may recommend counseling, rehabilitation, or even termination of employment. Many employers feel that rehabilitation is not their responsibility, but the courts disagree. Legislation already introduced includes this provision and allows job termination following the failure to complete a rehabilitation program, refusal to enter one, or a second occurrence.

Will these procedures alone eliminate substance abuse? Perhaps not, but they will make a significant reduction in substance abuse in the workplace. Efforts to deal with substance abuse have been tried by a variety of employers with varied success. Employers with the best results are those who have gotten off the fence and dealt directly with the problem. Some have initiated preemployment drug testing procedures, while others have required periodic testing or tests after incidents are reported.

Numerous problems are associated with the initiation of testing. Employers should be familiar with the legal requirements in their state. Management is usually not prepared to pursue the investigation of suspected abuse--training programs must be in place. Spotting abuse problems is difficult even for close family members, so the need for proper orientation and training is strong. The company must be firm in its policy enforcement and control--and the policy must apply equally to everyone, from the top down. Failure to back up supervisors working within the system or to enforce substance policies fairly at all levels will defeat the entire program before it ever gets started.

What about the cost? The cost of training, legal advice, counseling, and rehabilitation may be high, but stop to think about how much it costs to replace one employee, every day, who is out for a substance-related problem. What about the cost of hiring and training when employees need to be permanently replaced? Add to that the cost of injuries, replacing damaged equipment, losses due to internal theft, plus investigation, prosecution, and litigation--and the employer will find it is time to get off the fence and take a stand.

It will take the cooperation of law enforcement agencies at every level of government; increased education and awareness programs in schools, businesses, and industry; and the availability of sound counseling and rehabilitation programs for the fight to be successful. Substance abuse cannot be completely eliminated--there will always be those who are unreachable, weak, or easily led astray, just as there will be those who are attracted to the quick profits and high risk of illegal activity. But the security and law enforcement industries have to start somewhere if they are going to be successful, and the best way to start is to get off the fence.

Stevan P. Layne, CPP, is president of Layne Consultants Inc., a Colorado-based international consulting firm specializing in management training programs and consulting in employee theft, preemployment screening, and substance abuse in the workplace. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:eliminating drugs in the workplace
Author:Layne, Stevan P.
Publication:Security Management
Article Type:column
Date:Aug 1, 1989
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