Documenting & Assessing Signs of Impairment (Reasonable Suspicion)
To establish a cause for reasonable suspicion all observations must be properly documented. Both observers must have training on signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol use. All observations must be made directly, not based on reports from other sources or outside influences. Observations must be:
- Specific – grounded in objective criteria.
- Gut feelings, hunches and biases are not considered causes for reasonable suspicion, nor are general beliefs and stereotypes.
- Current – the behaviour, appearance or odour is present at the time of observation. Observations cannot be made when an employee is off-duty.
- Documentable – the observation must be something that is seen, heard or smelled and can be clearly described for the written record.
- A report of the incident should include; the nature of the cause for reasonable suspicion, who was present and why, a list of observable signs and symptoms that may indicate possible impairment, employee attitude and behaviour once addressed, a list of times and sequence of events, that the testing process and procedure was explained, and the policy was reviewed, if testing was refused – that the employee was informed of the consequences.
- Remember to complete your observation documentation and incident reporting as soon as possible, while it’s still fresh in your mind.
- Assess – after the incident has been clearly documented, both observers will need to assess what they know and observed to determine how to proceed. If both observers witnessed behaviours that create a suspicion, and the documentation supports this suspicion, the employee should be addressed in private. If there is disagreement, bring in an additional qualified observer for assistance. At this point, it may be determined that a reasonable suspicion of drug or alcohol use does not exist, and no further action is necessary.
Conducting this process properly not only protects your business, it protects your people. Make sure your workforce has the knowledge and practical skills to keep the workplace safe.