Fletcher Construction has a strong focus on wellbeing as well as health and safety, of which their drug and alcohol programme is a significant part.
The company’s drug and alcohol programme consists of a four-pronged approach, including education, prevention, detection and rehabilitation.
“The lower drink driving limits meant the time was right to review our policy and get feedback from employees on the policy – what worked, what didn’t, and what was most important to them,” says Louise Barry, Fletcher’s rehabilitation specialist.
In revising the policy (which Fletcher refers to as its 'standard' and is available for download below), consultation was key. “It was a long process, taking about eight months,” says Louise.
“We talked to all levels of our staff, and the union, and sought input from external specialists to make sure we did everything correctly. This process was so valuable, and as a result we have a document that’s had input from across the company.”
To get staff involved, Fletcher put together a one-page toolbox talk resource on the proposed changes. The sheet had review information on the front, with an ‘agree/disagree’ tick-box on the reverse with space for comments. The employee just had to fill it out, fold it, seal it and send it back.
“They could also email. We encouraged groups to talk about it and send in a consensus,” says Louise. “We were blown away by the amount of feedback we received. A large majority was positive and agreed with the changes, which was really pleasing.
“And when the final standard was signed off, we went back to our people to show where their feedback had resulted in amendments. It was important to close the loop, which is a step that’s often missed.”
Education and prevention
As education and prevention are two prongs of the company’s four-pronged approach, work is underway to create resources to educate staff about alcohol and drug harm, and prevent unsafe drinking practices.
“Our drug and alcohol policy isn’t just about catching people out. It’s about managing risk, providing support for people, and educating them about why this is so important. We’re aiming to help contractors educate their people too.”
Louise says the new standard beefs up and clearly sets out the company’s commitment to host responsibility and expected behaviours at company functions.
The policy says if alcohol is served at company events, the hosts will put in place strategies to promote a safer drinking environment, including:
- providing substantial food
- providing and promoting non-alcoholic and low-alcohol drink options
- serving alcohol with care and responsibility
- identifying and taking a responsible approach to dealing with intoxicated or under-aged people.
“We did this anyway, but now it’s clear to all it’s what must be done at any company event,” says Louise. “From management, all the way to the guys on the ground, Fletcher Construction has a strong culture of taking responsibility for health and safety and this extends to alcohol use. Our people want to do the right thing and look after each other.”
Lower alcohol limit and rehabilitation
The new standard contains a number of changes, including reducing the alcohol site limit (as the driving limit had also reduced) and offering wider access to rehabilitation.
The standard extends testing to anyone who goes onto a Fletcher Construction site, including contractors, suppliers and all Fletcher staff.
Drug and alcohol rehabilitation, including counselling sessions, are now open to every employee who puts their hand up, even if they haven’t tested positive. “This is an important part of the Fletcher drug and alcohol programme as people need to know they can ask for support.”
Louise says a very small number of people were a little concerned the company was seemingly trying to restrict what people did in their own time, but Fletcher’s response on this was clear.
“Our focus is solely on making sure people come to work in a condition where they can work safely. For us this means people having alcohol levels below our site level.”
Louise says the exercise was valuable and she reassures other companies thinking about tackling alcohol but finding the subject daunting. “Just ask people what they want,” she advises. “They might actually want help and there are some great programmes out there.
“People say, ‘I just want to go to work and do my job’. That’s what we want too, but we want to help you be well and stay safe as you do that.”