Recently, Wisconsin's largest business group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, focused on substance abuse, particularly opioids, at the recent annual conference of the Wisconsin Safety Council, April 14 to April 17.
The move was in response to the ongoing drug epidemic in the country, which is affecting workplaces of all sizes in all industries.
Spokesman for the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce group Nick Novak said in a recent Wisconsin Public Radio article that: "A recent survey from the National Safety Council showed that 75 percent of employers have been impacted by the opioid crisis."
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, says employees who abuse drugs and alcohol are more likely to change jobs frequently, be absent from work, get hurt at work and file a workers' compensation claim.
Many Wisconsin employers are having trouble finding workers because of a low unemployment rate coupled with the fact that many employees simply cannot pass a drug test, according to another Wisconsin Public Radio article.
This has prompted the Wisconsin Safety Council to conduct statewide training on the dangers of opioids and how to spot issues with employees this summer, Novak said.
The National Safety Council says only 28 percent of companies offer workplace training about opioids.
With so few companies addressing the opioid epidemic internally, the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce group is taking a big step by offering statewide training to its members. If more organizations stepped up like this and offered training to the companies in their various states or regions, it would greatly help in the fight against addiction.
If you're a small business owner, you don't have to wait for a business group to step up, though. Your company can be among those that are helping to fight this national emergency by following these four guidelines:
1. Train employees about addiction.
Sometimes addiction is not always obvious, but if you train your employees what to look for, they may be able to spot the symptoms of addiction in their co-workers. Also, get trained yourself on what to look for. After all, you have the most vested interest in keeping your workplace free of drugs.
2. Remember that it is about helping people.
Just like drug testing, training employees to know how to recognize addiction is not about catching people using drugs. It is about helping people get well. Someone who is suffering from addiction shouldn't be seen as a criminal, but rather someone in need of help. Noticing that they have a problem is the first step to helping that person.
It's also about maintaining the safety of your workplace. Regardless of whether your business involves heavy machinery or just people tapping away at keyboards, an intoxicated person can pose a real danger to themselves and everyone around them. In essence, you owe it to your employees and they owe it to each other to make sure nobody is under the influence of alcohol or drugs at work.
3. Lobby business groups you belong to.
If you belong to any industry or business groups, suggest to them that they consider offering training in your city or state so more businesses can get informed and join the fight against addiction by identifying it and getting employees the help they need.
Bring it up with your fellow business leaders in your industry, at trade shows, annual conferences, industry-specific events or wherever you can. With enough business voices coming together, you should be able to convince them to take action.
4. If you're not already doing it, consider drug testing.
It's a deterrent, but it also helps to maintain a safe working environment. How comprehensive you want to make it is up to you, but we've found businesses who we help to enact programs tend to report a decrease in safety-related incidents once they've been running their programs for a year or more.
A complete drug testing program would include pre-employment, random, post-accident and reasonable suspicion testing. As each state differs as to how companies conduct drug testing, you will want to make sure you are familiar with your state's laws.
With drug abuse ravaging the country right now, it is going to take a proactive effort on behalf of business owners to deal with it. With the proper outlook, training and education, your business could be on the forefront of the fight against the opioid and drug epidemic.