Construction-site workers are involved in physically demanding, stressful and high-risk jobs. A routine day at work will usually see them handling heavy equipment and machinery, working at great heights, and with potentially dangerous tools. Because jobs at construction sites involve considerable risk to life and property, they are classified as safety-sensitive jobs.
Safety-sensitive jobs require workers to be alert and careful all the time. Even a minor lapse can lead to major incidents and heavy losses. This is the reason why drug and alcohol testing has been made mandatory for safety-sensitive jobs in the construction industry.
Here are a few ways in which the industry can be made safer and more secure.
1. Raise Awareness and Build Positive Work Culture
The best way to build a sustainable and strong safety culture at worksites is to make it an organizational priority. When the top management puts in place policies and initiatives that identify and promote sound safety practices, it becomes easy for the rest of the managerial staff and supervisors to implement them.
Several organizations are working towards decreasing the incidences of fatalities and injuries at the workplace. Construction sites are among the most dangerous places to work at in the US. They topped the list in terms of total number of worker deaths due to fatal occupational injuries in 2015, and it is no surprise that several stakeholders have joined hands to improve the dismal scenario. The Construction Coalition for a Drug- and- Alcohol-Free Workplace is a joint initiative by builders and contractors to ensure that their worksites are free of drugs and alcohol. After pledging support to the cause, your company can also access resources and guides to help you formulate an effective substance abuse policy for your company.
2. Make Drug Testing a Part of Your Safety Policy
Employee drug testing is a touchy topic, but can definitely help bring down cases of drug abuse among employees if effectively implemented. Drug testing can be implemented at different stages in your company.
Pre-employment drug testing will help you filter out employees who have a long history of heavy drug abuse. Hair testing is usually carried out to detect the history of use within a window period of up to three months.
Urine testing gives results pertaining to more recent use. Chronic drug usage can be detected within a window period of 14 days, while some sedatives like heavy doses of marijuana stay in the system for up to 30 days.
3. Be Clear on Drug Testing Procedures
Job applicants must be made aware of the procedures that will be followed during the pre-employment drug testing process.
If a test result is positive, more extensive tests will be carried out to confirm the result. Typically, independent physicians evaluate the result and verify the report. The physician will also personally check with the concerned applicant whether there is a medical reason for the presence of drugs in the system. The law requires that the applicant should be allowed to pay for a retest if he or she feels the result is faulty. For the very same reason, at TestCountry, all tested bodily samples are preserved until further notice.
Sometimes, test results show manipulation or discrepancies. Abnormal results sometimes indicate that the applicant has consumed too much water or fluids to dilute the urine sample. In such cases, a retest is recommended.
4. Random Testing and Post-Incident Testing Are Useful
Random testing is carried out on an arbitrary basis in all safety-sensitive workplaces. This acts as a deterrent to employees who refrain from indulging in irresponsible behavior because they know that a positive test result can have adverse consequences. Supervisors can also be trained to identify signs and symptoms of abuse in workers, and should also be equipped with knowledge of proper methods of handling such situations, should they arise.
Post-incident testing is a must in highly safety-sensitive industries like construction. If an accident or incident occurs and there are injuries, illnesses or damage to property, then a post-incident test will help determine whether or not the worker involved was operating under influence. It is also important to note that the accident or incident cannot be explained as a mechanical failure. When human involvement is suspected, post-incident testing becomes necessary.
5. Provide Support
Several companies now prefer to help employees who admit to substance or alcohol abuse, rather than take disciplinary action against them. On-site employee assistance centers provide short-term counseling services and help employees deal with problems in personal life and at work. Financial counseling, substance abuse services, grief counseling and relationship counseling are all offered to help employees achieve mental and physical wellbeing.
Employees are also referred to drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, where they can seek further treatment. Rehabilitated employees are inducted into the workplace in a planned manner and are encouraged to ease into the routine as soon as possible.
Drug and alcohol abuse at construction worksites is a problem that cannot be ignored. All stakeholders, including big construction companies, contractors and employees, need to come together to tackle and overcome this problem.