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Center for Substance Abuse Prevention
Workplace Resource Center — Drug-Free Workplace Program

What is a "Drug-Free Workplace?"

It is an employment setting where all employees adhere to a program of policies and activities designed to provide a safe Workplace, discourage alcohol and drug abuse and encourage treatment, recovery and the return to work of those employees with such abuse problems.

How Long Have "Drug-Free Workplaces" Existed?

Efforts to address employee performance problems, including those related to alcohol and , later, to drugs have been ongoing for several decades. In one early and very ambitious effort of the Ford Motor Company, a 1914 profit sharing plan was supplemented by Sociological Department visits to workers' homes to evaluate their lives. Workers who failed to conform to the Ford idea of virtue, i.e., sobriety, fidelity, thrift, etc., had their profit sharing suspended. If workers did not redeem themselves in six months, they lost their jobs as well as their share of the profits.

Despite the understandable resentment caused by such investigations of private and family life, Ford and hundreds of other employers had comprehended an important relationship between the worker and the worker's live, i.e., that family quarrels and alcohol problems had an immediate negative effect on work output.

Twenty-five years later, in the pre-war and wartime shipyards of California, Washington,, and Oregon, high turnover, accidents, and absenteeism were epidemic in nature. At the Kaiser yards, these problems were attributed to the generally poor health status of workers recruited from small communities throughout the country, where inadequate nutrition and medical attention were common. The solution was the creation of an in-house health care delivery system financed by payroll deductions. The Kaiser plan, which exists today as on f the country's largest independent health maintenance organizations, comprehended another important relationship: that existing between worker health and productivity.

These early programs were followed by routine provisions within companies' policies and collective bargaining agreements, often acknowledged and supported by unions, that prohibited "drinking on the job." As employers began to understand that healthy, happy and sober employees turn out the best products, these early efforts evolved into what are known today as employee assistance programs (EAPs) which, in addition to alcohol and drug abuse, address a variety of other employee problems that can effect performance on the job. Today, the concept of a "Drug-Free Workplace" has become the norm with large and medium size employers. Efforts are continually made by Federal, State, and civic and community organizations to bring the Drug-Free Workplace experience to a greater percentage of smaller employers.

What Are the Characteristics of an Effective, Comprehensive Drug-Free Workplace Program?

—Active, visible leadership and support of the program by the employer

—Clear, written Drug-Free Workplace policies and procedures that are applied uniformly

—Employee and union involvement in program development of the program

—Management, supervisors, unions representatives and employees who are knowledgeable about their roles, rights and responsibilities under the Drug-Free Workplace policy

—Access to treatment and follow-up for employees who are having abuse problems

—Methods of identifying alcohol and drug abusers, including drug testing, for the purpose of providing the opportunity for treatment, recovery and the return to work

What Are the Components of a Comprehensive Drug-Free Workplace Program?

The "Drug-Free Workplace" is a more recent term and concept introduced by the Federal government's policy for its employees in 1986 and promulgated in the private sector by the President's Drug Advisory Council. A comprehensive approach to having a Drug-Free Workplace would include:

- A written policy
- Access to assistance
- Employee education
- Supervisor training
- Drug testing

Supported by public opinion, legislation and regulation of safety-sensitive industries in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Drug-Free Workplace concept was adopted and promoted by national, State and local organizations of employers and business executives. Some unions adopted it as well and undertook hiring hall drug testing of their members and provided "Drug-Free worker" identification.

Written policies assure that all employees have the same understanding of their rights and responsibilities under the program, and that employers administer the program uniformly among all employees.

For more information, please visit the Workplace Resource Center.red ribbon icon

Source: Center for Substance Abuse Prevention
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

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