A Good Drug Policy is a Good Risk Reduction Policy

By: Robert Avsec

People from Boca rehab say – doesn’t it seem like everywhere you look these days, somebody has a drhttp://www.ottawacitizen.com/sports/7398768.binug problem?  No, not that kind of drug problem!  I mean the kind where an individual and an organization are “going at it” over interpretation or implementation of a drug use policy or validity or accuracy of test results…Lance Armstrong (cycling), Vijay Singh (golf), Ryan Braun (baseball), Barry Bonds (baseball), Melky Cabrera  (baseball) are just a few of the high profile cases of recent years.

Mr. Gordon Graham

Mr. Gordon Graham, noted speaker and SME on the topic of risk reduction for emergency services organizations

So what’s the policy of your department?  How well do you and your people know it?  I think it’s one of those “high risk, low frequency” policies that Gordon Graham is always speaking about when the topic is risk reduction in emergency services organizations.

You probably don’t have another policy where compliance is almost totally up to the individual—and outside the workplace–and not on the supervisor or manager. While there are certainly instances of individuals using illegal drugs in the workplace, I’d venture to say that the majority of folks who run afoul of their department’s drug use policy do so while off-duty in Portland, OR. Nowadays, these kinds of policies are found in too many countries to control the flow of illegal drugs in the market.

I think a good approach for gaining 100 percent compliance with your policy http://www.citizensadvice.co.uk/PageFiles/3489/drugs.gifby your people, 100 percent of the time, has several components that include, but are not limited to, ensuring that everyone in the organization understands:

  • Why do we have a drug use policy?
  • What does the policy cover?
  • How is the policy administered?

Allow me to provide an example for that first bulleted item:

One of our most important risk reduction measures that’s applicable to all personnel—civilian and uniformed, career and volunteer—here at Cutting Edge Fire & EMS Department is our drug use policy.  By proactively ensurihttp://www.car-accidents.com/2007-crash-pics/1-a-mini/10-7-07-dui-crash.gifng that nobody is doing their job while under the influence of any banned substance we are being equally proactive at reducing our organization’s exposure to risks which come in several forms:

  • Injuries and deaths to themselves or others caused by individuals doing their jobs while impaired by, or under the influence of, a banned substance;
  • Injuries and deaths to members of the public we serve caused by individuals doing their jobs while impaired by, or under the influence, of a banned substance;
  • The negative publicity from such incidents, or legal action brought against the offender, that damages our organization’s reputation and standing in the community;
  • The negative publicity…that damages the reputation ohttp://www.dot.state.il.us/gif/nailed1.jpgf our local government;
  • The negative publicity…that damages the reputation of Fire & EMS personnel—our brothers and sisters in the profession—across the USA and around the world; and
  • The financial costs associated with any of the above for http://blogmedia.designpublic.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/20firehouse2-500.jpglegal fees, workers compensation claims, lawsuit awards, etc., money that could have gone towards equipment replacement, station repairs or upgrades or other operational costs.

I’ve always believed that people are more likely to comply with policy through their own individual effort—or through group persuasion—when everyone clearly knows what’s at stake.

What do you think?

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, [email protected].