J. J. Keller® Compliance Network Logo
Start Experiencing Compliance Network for Free!
Update to Professional Trial!

Be Part of the Ultimate Safety & Compliance Community

Trending news, knowledge-building content, and more – all personalized to you!

Already have an account?
Thank you for investing in EnvironmentalHazmat related content. Click 'UPGRADE' to continue.
Enjoy your limited-time access to the Compliance Network Professional Trial!
A confirmation welcome email has been sent to your email address from ComplianceNetwork@t.jjkellercompliancenetwork.com. Please check your spam/junk folder if you can't find it in your inbox.
Thank you for your interest in EnvironmentalHazmat related content.
You've reached your limit of free access, if you'd like more info, please contact us at 800-327-6868.

As cannabis legalization spreads across the country, marijuana testing is coming under scrutiny.

A positive marijuana test shows that the drug has been used sometime in the past 30 days or so, but can’t prove that a person is under its influence. In some states, such as New York, this drawback means that an employer often can’t use a positive test as a reason for discipline or termination.

What’s an employer to do when marijuana testing isn’t allowed?

In all states, an employer can take disciplinary action when an employee is under the influence of marijuana (or alcohol or an illegal substance) in the workplace. This means your supervisors need to know how to tell that an employee is impaired, and what to do when they suspect that this is the case.

A supervisor who notices signs of impairment can and should act. There are safety concerns when a worker is under the influence, as well as accountability considerations.

Employees need to understand the expectation that they come to work clean and sober, and grasp that there are consequences if they don’t. Ignoring the situation risks having it escalate into a larger problem that diminishes productivity and morale and could lead to safety issues.

What supervisors need to know about suspected drug and alcohol use

It’s not easy to confront a worker about suspected drug or alcohol use, which is where supervisor training comes in. Supervisors should:

  • Know the signs of substance abuse and impairment
  • Recognize the importance of promptly addressing this sensitive issue
  • Be ready to handle a situation that can become emotional or potentially dangerous

Training designed to help supervisors recognize the signs of employee impairment or substance abuse is often called reasonable suspicion training. This training is designed to equip supervisors with knowledge that helps them make an informed decision and take appropriate action when an employee is suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

5 keys to successful reasonable suspicion training

Training for supervisors should not only make them aware of the signs of substance abuse, but should give them the confidence to approach an employee when they see those signs. To do this:

  1. Lay the groundwork with basic information. This includes providing information about signs of impairment (such as bloodshot eyes, an unsteady gait, and slurred words) as well as outlining steps for handling the situation:
    —Observing and documenting the signs
    — Confirming with another supervisor
    —Confronting the employee
    —Testing, if warranted
  2. Don’t avoid difficult issues. A situation involving substance abuse can be uncomfortable. What if an employee becomes angry, cries, or refuses to cooperate? Include challenging scenarios in the training to help prepare supervisors for tough situations.
  3. Show supervisors what this might look like. Use videos that simulate situations where supervisors may see this behavior.
  4. Discuss how this applies to their job. When training is done in a group setting, have supervisors talk about the issue with their peers. They can discuss the examples presented during training as well as situations they have encountered.
  5. Let them practice. Have supervisors do some role playing so they practice documenting observations and approaching an employee about what has been seen.

This interactive approach to training provides supervisors with more than a list of substance abuse signs. It helps them internalize the issue and understand the emotions that can emerge so they are better equipped to handle situations involving substance abuse and an impaired employee.

Key to remember: As drug testing for marijuana becomes less prevalent, reasonable suspicion training becomes more important. Making that training interactive helps give supervisors the confidence to take action when substance abuse is suspected.