Drinking at Work!

Drinking at work - and I don’t mean coffee - seems like it would be an easy thing to detect - but it really isn’t.

Usually when we think of someone being intoxicated - they are laughing - stumbling - slurring their words - or countless other things that drunks do.

But the truth is sometimes - it is very difficult to detect that someone has been drinking at work - especially if they are an alcoholic. And lets face it - it’s usually the alcoholic that is drinking on the job. Because unless your just stupid - and there are some out there - it is the person with a major drinking problem that does this.

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Drinking at Work - Don't hesitate...

A lot of managers are a little reluctant to confront someone that they are not sure is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work - since they don’t want to embarrass the employee or themselves. I can certainly understand why they believe this - but not confronting it can put others at risk.

You have a responsibility to your entire work force to provide a safe working environment.

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Drinking at Work - Have a policy and a procedure for it...

Here is a quick story of just one incident that happened in my unit.

First - I know that you are tired of hearing me harp on you about having good - policies and procedures - and/or Employee Handbook - but I will anyway because it is just that important. Our policy allowed for onsite testing if there was any suspicion of alcohol or drug use. This is different than random drug testing.

       Related Topics

    *    Signs of a Drinking Problem

    *    Drink on the Job

Have at a minimum an employee handbook that addresses this specific issue - and generally it would fall under immediate suspension and termination. But whatever your policy is - be clear and - be consistent.

Anyway - I was notified by one of my supervisors that they felt an employee may have been drinking. They were not sure - just a hunch they had.

I asked where the employee was so that I could come observe.

Drinking at Work - It's my mouthwash...

I immediately went to the area and as I approached them I observed them as closely as possible - trying to focus on their behavior - walk - speech - and facial expressions. Although at first glance I did not suspect that they had been drinking - but as I continued to observe they were smiling more - a little bit more of a purposeful walk - and a distinct smell of alcohol - but not necessarily drinking alcohol - more like mouthwash.

There was enough reason for me to ask the employee.

I didn’t waste any time - I asked him bluntly if he had been drinking - and he told me without hesitation - no.

I then asked him if he had been drinking prior to coming to work - and again - he told me no.

I then asked him if he had been drinking anytime last night - and he told me the last drink that he had was at 8:00 pm the night before. The current time when I asked him this was 10:00 am.

Drinking at Work - I truly believed they had been drinking...

I said to him - it sure seems like you have been drinking - and when he answered by saying - it must be my mouthwash or aftershave - I truly felt at that point he had been.

I then told him that I believed he had been drinking at work - and for his safety as well as everyone else’s - would he follow me to employee health - so that we could determine for sure - he said he would.

If you don’t have the luxury of having an onsite way of testing - I would recommend that you arrange with a nearby medical clinic - to be paid on a case by case basis. Remember to never let the employee drive themselves there - they should be driven along with a person from management - or they should take a cab there and back at your expense. Check with your own legal department as to your specific requirements.

We walked together over to employee health - and along the way - I explained that I had a duty to keep other employees and patients safe - and that I hoped I was wrong. He told me then that I would be wrong - but we were very civil to each other. Respecting others is always important.

Drinking at Work - They began to get nervous...

Once reality started setting in with this employee you could tell they were starting to get nervous - they knew that it was no longer just answering questions - or denying it - they would be actually doing a medical test to determine if he was under the influence of any drug or alcohol.

Well - they did determine that he had been drinking at work - as a matter of fact - if he had stopped drinking the night before at 8:00 pm - the doctor said he would have had to have more than 17 drinks. He was not only intoxicated - but very intoxicated. He was then suspended - pending termination.

Now - since he was intoxicated we could not just suspend him and send him home. What if he drove home and got into an accident and killed someone? Or even walking they could get hit by a car or hurt in some other way.

This is why it was important that we got him home safely. I can not stress this enough. It may mean that you call a friend of theirs - call a cab and your company pays for it - or any other option - just don’t send them along their way.

This person was terminated.

Drinking at Work - You must have a No Tolerance Policy...

The key to this situation is that you must have policies & procedures that cover this from start to finish - having a no tolerance policy against being under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the workplace - and/or - possession of drugs or alcohol in the workplace. You may want to decide your testing policy as well - but make sure you have your legal representative review prior to releasing it.

Thank you and may God Bless You!

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