Managing Workplace Substance Misuse Utilizing a SAP

When it comes to workplace safety, reducing risks of unproductivity, injury, fatality, and liability, there is a growing recognition that SAP (Substance Abuse Professional) expertise provides great value. 

Managing Workplace Substance Misuse Utilizing Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs): How they are critical in todays Business

When it comes to workplace safety, reducing risks of unproductivity, injury, fatality, and liability, there is a growing recognition that SAP (Substance Abuse Professional) processes provide great value. 

Opportunities to prevent unnecessary injury and fatality occur regularly on worksites; yet how employers capitalize on these opportunities varies. When an employee presents at work not fit-for-duty due to substance use or impairment, self-discloses struggles with alcohol or drugs, or fails an alcohol or drug test (pre-employment, pre-access, post-incident or near miss, random, follow-up/unannounced, or reasonable suspicion), utilizing a SAP provides a reliable framework for both the employer and employee’s next steps without compromising safety.  

SAPs are specifically trained to protect workplace safety by assessing employees and determining whether they meet criteria for a SUD (Substance Use Disorder). They also make recommendations concerning specific and appropriate substance misuse education, treatments, aftercare and follow-up testing. This framework helps to ensure employees get the right type and intensity of intervention and allows employers to demonstrate due process which can close otherwise open gaps for potential liability, litigation and grievances. 

SAPs are safety-centred, and their processes and compliance are often mandatory in safety-sensitive regulated industries. This increases employee motivation for participation and gives the employer assurance regarding safety and confidence to take next steps. With the SAP process, should employees not comply or fail to complete recommendations, an employer has more legal options available for discipline up to and including termination. Following due process with a professional SAP is also beneficial to business’s where the process is not mandated for the same reasons.

The Workers Compensation Board of Saskatchewan (WCB), states that the average number of annual workplace fatalities in Saskatchewan over the last 15 years is 37, and the average number of serious injuries each year over that period is 2,400. While there are certainly many potential factors involved in causation, a portion of these factors will be directly or indirectly related to substance misuse. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, roughly 12 per cent of Canadians have a SUD (Substance Use Disorder), yet less than 1 per cent ever access help. This may be due to the stigma around substance misuse, psychological health disorders, and/or insufficient employer processes in managing these situations. A much larger percentage of the working population without a SUD may also report to work unfit for duty, which can be commonly overlooked, neglected, or mismanaged increasing low productivity and safety risks on the job.

For effective prevention, it is vital that these situations be identified and effectively addressed earlier to prevent future unproductivity, injury and long-term costs. 

There is increased responsibility to insure physical, psychological, or substance-related struggles are dealt with without compromising safety. Many employers may still be operating without clearly defined alcohol and drug policies and processes to manage these situations. Employers that do have a policy may still be overly reliant on practices and resources that are less effective or terminate employees without due process risking litigation or grievances. In an ever-changing and evolving world of safety and labour law, and with what is at stake, utilizing SAP makes sense giving your company a competitive advantage that values safety, people, and bottom line. 

That is a win/win/win so we ALL go home safe.