Home>FACILITIES MANAGEMENT>Health, Safety & Workwear>Drug and alcohol considerations in the cleaning sector

Drug and alcohol considerations in the cleaning sector

07 February 2020

Duncan Carmichael, sales manager at AgriYork 400, discusses the increasing usage of drugs, and how to managers can address this growing problem.

Workers in cleaning sector hold many of the indicators where drug use would be prevalent. Data, especially related to UK drug driving offences shows that the under 35s are turning away from alcohol, while drug taking - especially cocaine - has become the recreational illicit substance.

In many regions of the UK, drug driving arrests and convictions are now higher than drunk driving and, in an industry like industrial cleaning, this presents management with an enhanced duty of care when drug use and abuse are considered in this vulnerable cohort.

The job role and functions make this especially important: 

  • Typically working at the premises of a client – managing their facilities
  • Travelling between client sites
  • Use of machines, electrical power tools, moving and loading equipment
  • Exposure to elements, working at height, frequently lone worker unsupervised
  • High percentage of under 35-year olds and more vulnerable to peer pressure - That is the age group that has the highest incidence of drug use so in an employment and social setting they are among other drug users.

Drug use is increasing, and alcohol abuse has always been an issue especially when driving safety is considered.

What to do?
A testing programme using inexpensive point of collection tests has an immediate deterrent benefit as drug users in the workforce will believe that eventually through a random testing protocol they will be detected. A quality multi-panel oral fluid test device costs £7. This type of device can also detect alcohol use.\

This test provides a presumptive result and typically determines eight or more of the most commonly used drugs and metabolites prevalent in the UK. The test does not indicate impairment, it simply indicates use.

Policies should focus on use and the means to detect use, but illicit drugs, undeclared prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines are detected. That is the goal.
Impairment assessing and measurement is too subjective a metric to be consistently measured. 

If drugs and/or alcohol are detected in an oral fluid sample, then scientifically some of that same drug or metabolite is currently present in the blood of the donor.
This is the key – detection of illicit drug use in the workplace.

These workers are a risk to themselves, their colleagues and your customers. As management teams have a duty of care and are responsible for health and safety implementation, then a Drug and Alcohol policy which explains that illicit and undeclared drug use is a violation of company regulations and is actionable, is an important first step.

The process starts with a policy
Companies in the cleaning and FM sector have possibly a greater duty of care as almost always their employees are in their client’s location. Frequently a prospective client will inquire, or even demand that all on site workers submit to and adhere to the host client’s drug and alcohol policy.

Many cleaning and facilities contracts at the RFQ or tender proposal stage require the bidding company to submit their drug and alcohol policy and confirm a testing protocol.
The policy implementation results in a testing regime, testing leads to detection, and detection improves the workplace by removing the risk.

Simply put, drug and alcohol testing are continuing risk assessment by responsible management. If a risk is not measured, then the impact of the risk is unknown.

One of the best tools in this regard is to allow your workforce to self-appraise their circumstances with reference to drug and alcohol use that they are actually experiencing. A free online survey is available, completely anonymous and the survey link is sent to HR, who send the link by email, which is a URL, to staff members. After a period of time, the responses are collated then presented as a report to management, all at no cost.

When company management are presented with statistical data that a percentage of staff members have:

  • Witnessed drug use in the workplace
  • Have reluctantly been a passenger with a driver they suspect of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Have been approached by a colleague to buy drugs
  • Then HR are forced to act.

It is better to take action to prevent, rather than facing the disastrous consequences of a tragedy, where post-investigation the theme is “we knew that.”