There is a need for effective control of substance abuse in the manufacturing industry as it is a major issue, says drug and alcohol testing equipment supplier Alco-Safe MD Rhys Evans.
Alco-Safe has more than 4 000 clients using its services across industries, including mining, construction, rail, transport, heavy industrial and oil.
Evans notes that more than 50% of Alco-Safe’s clients are manufacturing companies such as packaging company Nampak and manufacturing company Aveng Manufacturing.
“Using our solutions, some of our clients have shown a 60% reduction in substance abuse in their companies – this is an indication of how big the challenge of substance abuse in the manufacturing industry is,” Evans comments.
He explains that, compared with mining, for example – where “safety auditors visit companies and industry best practice is already in place” – the policies regarding substance abuse within the manufacturing industry are not and have not been implemented as strictly. Evans adds, however, that industry is moving towards greater implementation of substance abuse policies and regulation.
Impact and Awareness
Alco-Safe tries to create awareness in industry, by offering educational seminars, awareness presentations and booklets, which can be customised for clients. Evans says the company started offering the seminars and booklets in 2017. “The goal is to be proactive instead of reactive in tackling the issue.”
Evans mentions an example of a metal recycling company in Rosslyn, in Gauteng, which started using Alco-Safe’s solutions at the end of last year. “There were between 40 and 50 incidents, such as on-site injuries a month, owing to substance abuse. When the company implemented policy and started using our solutions, incidents decreased to three or four a month.”
He mentions that there are massive knock-on effects of substance abuse in the manufacturing industry. It leads to high rates of absenteeism, accidents and injuries, company downtime, extra costs and damaged equipment, which, in turn, lead to higher costs for the consumer.
He emphasises that this could be especially unfortunate in the South African manufacturing industry, as it is already underperforming – there is little room for human error and sobriety is, thus, essential.
The solution is to drive awareness, and manufacturing companies must implement effective drug and alcohol policies to maintain zero-tolerance work environments, he emphasises.
Meanwhile, it is important that all employees be subjected to testing and that they understand policies, says Evans, adding that employees need to understand that there is a legal aspect to it and that they must comply with it. It is also important that the company takes reasonable, practical measures, which must be specified, when a person tests positive for substance abuse, he explains.
Testing times and situations must also be stipulated, for example, provision should be made for testing, owing to reasonable suspicion, as well as random testing, he notes.
Awareness, education and the implementation of effective substance abuse policies must be promoted, Evans concludes.