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Getting Back to Work After Drug and/or Alcohol Treatment

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I participated in an IHSA webinar September 13 that focused on RTW for workers after drug and/or alcohol treatment or a positive drug test. 

I am going to share some of that information in this article. An important point I made is that companies need an established protocol to assess workers who test positive on a substance screen, are removed from the site for suspicion of, or are returning to work after treatment for, substance abuse.Fortunately, such a protocol already exists.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) created the role of Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) specifically to evaluate workers in safety sensitive positions, e.g., Airline Pilots, Subway, Train and Bus operators who return a positive drug or alcohol test during screening or are removed from duties due to suspicion of substance use, among other reasons.

The SAP must be clinically trained in alcohol and drug addiction, have college level education, belong to a professional association, have supervised hours in clinical Substance Abuse work and pass an examination administered by a nationally recognized training agency.

The DOT did this because it recognized that Substance Abuse is difficult to detect unless the person is experienced with it. Unfortunately, most of the helping professions don’t receive extensive training in this area due to the broad nature of their duties, e.g., social workers, doctors and EAP counselors.

SAP’s are independent from EAP programs, which are mostly voluntary and cover a broad range of problems. The focus of their duties is different too. An EAP’s main responsibility is to the worker.

The SAP’s responsibility is not to the worker or company, it’s primarily to protect the public.

For each referral, a SAP conducts two assessments, an initial and a follow-up assessment.

The initial assessment (at least two hours) determines if the worker has a problem, then recommends specific treatment and/or education as appropriate. An initial report is issued to the company detailing the SAP’s findings and recommendations.

The follow-up assessment determines if the worker complied with SAP recommendations. This follow-up report is also submitted to the company.

The reports contain the following information:

Initial - If the worker tests positive for a Substance Use Disorder, the name of and contact person for the treatment center with the exact length of time the worker needs to attend.

Follow-up - A compliance statement. If the worker complied with the SAP’s recommendations, the exact date for RTW and specific aftercare recommendations, e.g., Jane must attend at least four 12 step meetings per week, have three hours of telephone contact with her treatment center each week and attend all aftercare meetings at her treatment center.

The are many benefits of companies adopting a SAP protocol:

  1. It’s a simple referral for the company, the SAP does the rest.
  2. The company finds out if the worker has a problem quickly. (About two days.)
  3. Gets the worker the exact treatment and/or education needed.
  4. Have clear directions on RTW and can monitor worker progress due to specific recommendations.
  5. Clearly documents the company's Due Diligence
  6. If a worker were banned from a site due to substance use, a full SAP report with successful worker compliance would be strong way to persuade the company to consider lifting the ban.

You should have your worker assessed by a SAP when a worker tests positive on a drug or alcohol screening or is removed from the jobsite due to suspicion of impairment.

Companies should consider a SAP assessment when a worker is on STD, WSIB or other benefits and are significantly exceeding the expected date of improvement or RTW.

If all companies in the ICI sector adopted the SAP protocol, it would significantly reduce the chance for injuries, accidents and fatalities. Workers would get the exact treatment needed to properly address their Substance Abuse. It would also provide peace of mind to companies knowing that they have and are following an established protocol for safety sensitive workers.

If you have questions, need training or literature please contact Julian Toy directly:

Direct Line: 905-866-7301
E-Mail: juliantoy@myaddictionexperts.com
Web: www.myaddictionexperts.com
Services: Fit for Duty/Drug and Alcohol policy development, Fit for Duty/Drug and Alcohol training, Employee Substance Abuse Assessments.
Preferred provider of Fit for Duty/Drug and Alcohol training Eastern Construction Ltd.


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