9 Keys to an Effective Drug and Alcohol Policy

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9 Keys to an Effective Drug and Alcohol Policy

A well-documented drug and alcohol policy provides a framework for dealing with issues surrounding workplace substance abuse and pre-existing medical conditions. You should consider your drug and alcohol policy as a component of your overall safety program. SureHire has close to 20 years of experience partnering with companies from many industries across Canada. In that time, we have witnessed 9 keys that our partners with successful policies share. So what are the 9 keys to an effective drug and alcohol policy?


Subject matter experts (SMEs) offer authority in specialized areas. They may have special certifications, degrees, or doctorates as well as unique experience or knowledge in particular industries or business settings. Learn more about the SME author of this article, Wayne St. John.


9 Keys to an Effective Drug and Alcohol Policy

1. Identify the purpose of the drug and alcohol policy.

The obvious purpose of a drug and alcohol policy is to prevent people from coming into work while impaired. This purpose should also take the following desired outcomes into consideration:

  • What goals will this policy help your company achieve?
  • Do you want a safer workplace?
  • How about a decrease in injuries?
  • Less downtime caused by accidents and near misses?

TIP: A good policy should align with and contribute to the overall safety goals of your company.

2. Ensure Human Rights compliance.

In Canada, an individual’s drug or alcohol dependency is considered a disability. As a result, you can neither terminate nor deny employment based on the presence of this disability. A well-written policy should consider the Employer’s Duty to Accommodate in situations where a disability through addiction is in place.

3. Outline the roles and responsibilities of supervisors and employees.

Having a successful policy means that both supervisors and employees are aware of and understand their roles and responsibilities in terms of what is expected of them when at work. As such, your policy should clearly outline the job tasks, duties, and chain of command to help employees understand what you expected of them, the tasks they may be faced with, and the individual(s) they should contact in times of need.

4. Don’t forget to address medicinal marijuana.

With the new landscape in the Canadian environment, employers need to include clear language regarding the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes in a safety-sensitive environment to remove any uncertainty from the employee’s perspective.

5. Clearly state the reasons for testing.

Employers should ensure that all employees understand why, when, and how testing would take place. It is important to outline the circumstances that would be deemed “testable” because it gives everyone an understanding of when it is appropriate for testing to occur.

6. Identify the consequences for employees who refuse testing or test positive.

As an employer, it is important that you create a list of consequences that is accessible, visible, and easily understood by employees. Doing this ensures everyone is aware of what would happen to them if they chose to refuse a test. If (by chance) an employee claimed they didn’t know of any such rules, you would simply have to reference the policy where it is all stated.

7. Be clear about self-disclosure and accommodation.

Your policy should provide the requirement for an employee to disclose should they have a problem with drug or alcohol abuse. You then have the responsibility to assist them in seeking access to resources (such as an SAP) to begin rehabilitation.

8. Identify how you will store results and what you will do to ensure confidentiality.

This is very sensitive information of a private nature. As an employer, it is important that you take great care to ensure you are not sharing this information inappropriately.

  • Who has access to the results and in what circumstances?
  • How does your Third-Party Administrator (TPA) deliver the results to ensure that only the right people have access?
  • How does your TPA ensure your employee’s private and confidential information is protected throughout the chain of custody?

When you outline the answers to the questions above within your policy, it helps improve employee confidence in the policy.

9. Review and evaluate your policy.

Outdated policies can put both the employer and employees at risk. Companies should develop appropriate and measurable indicators to capture the impact and effectiveness. Employers should also ensure to educate all employees on any changes to the policy and share regular reminders company-wide to keep their policy top of mind and promote a safety-first work culture.

A good policy is a foundation for a successful program that helps companies meet their safety goals, so let us help you in creating the best!


Looking for a Drug & Alcohol Testing provider, or assistance in developing an effective policy? SureHire offers quality services in Canada (and in the U.S. through NaviSure). Learn more about Drug & Alcohol Testingfind a locationbook an appointment, or contact us today to speak to a member of our team.

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