Help In Recognizing Potential Substance-Abuse In The Workplace
Dear Dr. LeCrone:
I am the owner of a manufacturing company that has 150 employees.
Safety is a big issue in the company as we use some equipment that can cause serious accidents if not carefully handled. Lack of attention, poor judgment, and improper handling of the equipment must all be carefully avoided to reduce the risk of harm to the employee.
Because substance abuse can be the cause of accidents, my supervisors have asked me for some guidance on how to recognize the signs of troubled employees who are abusing alcohol or other drugs.
Can you please give me some guidance with this potential problem?
Individuals with a substance abuse problem often display a pattern of problems and behaviors which may include some of the following:
• Increased risk of accidents – Impaired reaction time and judgment because of substance abuse, disregard for safety procedures, diminished concern for the safety of oneself and/or others.
• Absenteeism – Unexcused absences, improbable excuses for absences, excessive tardiness, and lengthy absences for minor illnesses.
• Sporadic work patterns – Changes in productivity, changes in quality of work, working overtime to finish assignments that would have been completed during regular work time.
• Problems with co-workers or supervisors – Overreaction to criticism, mood swings, irritability, avoidance of co-workers or supervisors, complaints from other employees.
• Confusion and/or problems in concentration – Difficulty in recalling instructions, making mistakes through inattention or poor judgment, inability to correct one’s own mistakes, difficulty in attending to necessary details, making frequent errors, forgetting how to perform routine tasks and procedures.
• A marked deterioration in personal appearance or grooming. The smell of alcohol and/or attempts to mask the smell of alcohol on one’s breath with mouthwash, chewing gum or mints.
Remember that these problems can be a result of conditions other than alcohol or drug abuse. A supervisor or someone from the human relations department in your organization may need to refer problem employees to someone trained in substance abuse evaluation.
Unfortunately, alcohol and drug abuse are all too frequent in the workplace, and they can cause inefficiency, lowered productivity, low morale and increase the danger of accidents and absenteeism. Professional assessment of problem behavior and then rehabilitation can help the troubled employee and those around him or her.
Remember, employee assistance programs can also be very helpful in both assessment and rehabilitation of sub-abuse problems.
Good luck with avoiding safety problems.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright © 2011