Thursday 20 January 2022

Getting up to speed with drug risk

Paul Wilkes, business services manager at FORS, lifts the lid on the organisation’s recent drug and alcohol impairment webinar

Drug and alcohol impairment continues to be a major challenge for operators. Research shows that the challenge facing the UK’s employers relating to drug and alcohol misuse cannot be overstated.

Alcohol alone, for instance, accounts for 167,000 missed working days per year, as well as £7.3bn in lost revenues due to low productivity.

When it comes to drugs, a 2019 study revealed that the UK is sadly Europe’s biggest user of cocaine, with approximately 60- 70 per cent of substance users in full-time employment.

The picture is not complete, though, without looking at legal substances and the fact that the UK Addiction Treatment Centre (UKAT) estimates that 1.5 million people in the UK are dependent on Benzodiazepine through prescribed drugs.

What exactly do we mean by impairment? Well, it can be defined as “the deterioration of an individual’s judgement and a decrease in the person’s physical ability”.

In the case of drivers, technicians and other staff members involved in the safe operation of a fleet, impairment can put lives at risk.

In light of the difficult 18+ months endured by the sector as a result of the pandemic, it is more important than ever that drivers and fleet managers are able to spot the signs of impairment and address them effectively.

The Christmas period is historically a high-risk time when it comes to alcohol impairment in particular, with the usual smattering of corporate events, awards evenings and social celebrations.

It is, of course, important to allow employees to let off steam and enjoy the festive season, particularly given last year’s lockdowns, but it is vital that this is done safely.

With all this in mind, FORS is urging operators to revisit their drug and alcohol procedures ahead of the busy Christmas period, ensure they are fit for purpose, and communicate them effectively to staff.

One way that we were able to get the message across effectively was via a recent webinar, delivered by FORS Associate, OdiliaClark.

The webinar looked in detail at how operators and drivers can more effectively manage the risk of impairment caused by drugs and alcohol in their business. The session was attended by 135 members, with 48 joining a repeat of the webinar put on as a result of popular demand, making it the most popular FORS webinar of the year so far.

This speaks volumes of the importance of this topic, and it’s great to see industry stakeholders taking it so seriously.

The webinars covered crucial topics such as managing the risk of drug and alcohol impairment, organisational culture surrounding drugs and alcohol impairment, and how to handle the outcomes of testing.

Attendees could be left in no doubt that having robust procedures in place is of paramount importance for employee welfare, and indeed for the safety of other road users and members of the public.

The FORS Standard requires members to have a drug and alcohol procedure in place. That includes actions to manage instances of suspected driver impairment due to drugs or alcohol, and FORS urges operators to look carefully at these procedures to make doubly sure that they are fit for purpose.

A recording of the FORS Associate webinar on managing drug and alcohol impairment is hosted at:
www.fors-online.org.uk/cms/fors-associates-webinars/

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