SME’s running serious risks by not taking drug and alcohol policy seriously

Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s), which are classed as having up to 20 employees are extremely vital part of the New Zealand economy.

According to the latest data from Statistics New Zealand, they account for:

  • 97 per cent (487,602) of all enterprises
  • 29 per cent (599,880) of all employees
  • an estimated 26 per cent of New Zealand’s Gross Domestic Product.

All businesses, whatever the size are obliged to comply with the rules and regulations governing how they operate. This includes things such as:

  • Taxation
  • Reporting and compliance
  • Governance
  • Law
  • And of course Health and Safety.

Having spent the last decade involved in providing drug awareness education to predominately larger companies and government agencies, it clear that these organisations by and large, have embraced the concept and realise that sound Health and Safety policy includes ensuring that the workplace is free from drug and alcohol harm. It is clear that not only is this required by law, but it creates a culture of safety, excellence and ultimately success. It is no coincidence that the most successful companies also tend to have the best safety records. The number of incident free days is often worn as a badge of honour by staff. This increases productivity and ultimately the bottom line. Makes perfect sense.

These organisations generally utilise a three pronged approach to drug and alcohol safety comprising

  1. A sound and up to date drug and alcohol policy with strong “buy in” from staff and management.
  2. Providing good quality Education regarding the policy and general drug awareness training and
  3. Drug testing systems and procedures which form part of the policy. SME’s on the other hand, in my experience tend to take a more “She’ll be right” attitude towards drugs and alcohol and the safety risks associated, in fact very few small business’s in my experience have a drug and alcohol policy at all, and if they do it is unlikely that employees are aware of it.

This, in my opinion exposes the business to a number of risk factors including:

  • Creating a market perception as an easy touch amongst potential employees
  • Decreased productivity
  • Increased risk of theft and shrinkage
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Greater risk of workplace accident and therefore injury and death.
  • Increased risk to criminal and civil liability in the event of a workplace accident. This is a Huge risk!

It is important that we raise the bar with SME’s when it comes to drug and alcohol policy and issues by creating awareness amongst the sector that drug and alcohol policy and management is just (if not more so) important as wearing eye and ear protection, safety clothing and cones!

To do this we need to remove barriers, in particular costs associated with implementing sound drug and alcohol policy and education with cost effective policy creation and online training solutions so that all employees are on a level playing field.