How To Train Supervisors to Recognise Substance Use Signs

A safe and productive work environment is essential for any business. Training managers and supervisors to recognise signs of drug and alcohol use among employees is crucial for maintaining safety and supporting workforce well-being.

Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to train supervisors to identify and address substance use issues effectively, including conducting reasonable suspicion training.

Understand the Importance of Training

First and foremost, it’s essential to understand why this training is crucial. Supervisors are often the first line of defence in identifying potential substance abuse issues. Proper training equips them with the knowledge and skills to:

  • Identify signs of impairment or substance use.
  • Take appropriate and timely action to prevent accidents and ensure safety.
  • Support employees who may be struggling with substance abuse issues.

Recognise the Signs of Substance Use

Training should cover the physical, behavioural, and performance-related signs that may indicate substance use. These can include:

  • Physical signs: Bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, unsteady gait, and unusual odours.
  • Behavioural signs: Increased absenteeism, mood swings, lack of coordination, and personality changes.
  • Performance issues: Decreased productivity, frequent mistakes, poor decision-making, and unexplained accidents.

Develop Observation Skills

Supervisors need to develop keen observation skills to detect these signs. This involves:

  • Paying close attention to changes in employee behaviour and performance.
  • Keeping detailed records of any incidents or patterns that may indicate substance use.
  • Understanding the difference between occasional issues and consistent patterns that may suggest a problem.

Understand the Legal and Policy Framework

Supervisors must be aware of the company’s drug and alcohol policy and the legal implications of their actions. Training should include:

  • A thorough review of the company’s drug and alcohol testing policy.
  • Information on federal and state laws regarding workplace substance use.
  • Guidelines on maintaining confidentiality and respecting employee privacy.

Practice Effective Communication

Effective communication is key when addressing suspected substance use. Training should teach supervisors how to:

  • Approach the employee in a non-confrontational manner.
  • Use clear, direct, and respectful language.
  • Document conversations and actions taken.

Know the Procedures for Reasonable Suspicion Testing

Supervisors should be trained on the procedures for reasonable suspicion testing, which involves:

  • Documenting the observed behaviours that led to the suspicion.
  • Following the company’s policies and procedures for initiating a drug or alcohol test.
  • Ensuring the process is conducted fairly and consistently.

Support Employees through the Process

Supervisors need to provide support to employees who may be struggling with substance abuse. This includes:

  • Referring them to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or other resources.
  • Encouraging them to seek help and offering support during their recovery process.
  • Understanding the signs of relapse and knowing how to respond appropriately.

Safework Health’s Reasonable Suspicion / For Cause Training Course

Enrol your managers in Safework Health’s Reasonable Suspicion Training for Supervisors course today!

This detailed workshop helps supervisors recognise and understand reasonable suspicion and the appropriate steps to take according to your alcohol and drug policy. Training is available online or face-to-face.


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