Showing up late for work particularly on a Monday, appearing unkempt or smelling of alcohol or drugs are all early warning signs. Volatile behaviour toward co-workers and lethargy may also be apparent. Today we look at national guidelines for tackling suspected drug and alcohol problems in young workers.

Young workers showing erratic behaviour, performance and appearance at work may be suffering from drug or alcohol use.

Guidelines for dealing with suspected drug or alcohol problems in a young worker have been published by the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction.

Young Workers and Workplace Safety: Guidelines for Managing Alcohol and Other Drug Risk recommends counselling a young worker using a three-stage approach dubbed ‘constructive confrontation’. This includes three interviews – the first to ‘advise’ of your concerns, the second to ‘caution’ of the consequences and the third to ‘confront’ with an ultimatum.

A written transcript of each interview should be kept and examples of unacceptable behaviour provided to the worker in writing.

Developing minds

Young workers (aged 16-19) are over-represented in workplace injury statistics and the report says inexperience, developing cognitive skills and use of drugs and alcohol tests their ability to work safely.

Workplace safety must always be the key consideration, for both the young worker and co-workers. If suspected drug or alcohol use presents an immediate risk the worker should be safety removed from the worksite and transport arranged for the worker to go home.

A drug and alcohol test would be appropriate if company policy includes on-site drug testing. Alternatively it may be suggested that a worker attend a doctor to have their fitness for work assessed.

Research supports using two-way communication to engage a young worker in the process.

“Young workers may not have a fully-developed ability to accurately read facial expressions and body language,” the report says. “Shouting, being too critical, or ignoring what the young worker is saying may result in them turning off. If a young worker believes that their supervisors care about them, they are more likely to respect and respond to their supervisor’s advice and instructions.”

A drug-free workplace is essential for productivity and safety. The report recommends:

  • Avoid using words such as ‘drunk’ or ‘stoned’;
  • Do not argue – stick to the facts; and
  • Be firm, especially if you need to remove a young employee for the worksite. Organise transport home and inform them you will discuss the situation when they return in a safe state.

“Alcohol and drug use outside of working hours can also increase risk to workplace safety and productivity,” the report says.

“By documenting all stages of the constructive confrontation process and showing that a fair and considerate position has been taken there may be fewer difficulties with any unfair dismissal legislation.”

Teenage workers can present unique responsibilities, challenges and opportunities. Developing a company drug and alcohol policy is an important first-step in providing a safe, drug-free workplace. If you are considering employee drug testing it is worth talking with experts in the field of drug testing. In Western Australia leading drug test equipment suppliers CMM Technology have the most advanced solutions to onsite drug testing.

For more information contact 1300 79 70 30.