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Nine Reasonable Suspicion Training Tips for DOT Supervisors

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Nine Reasonable Suspicion Training Tips and Discussion
for DOT Supervisors 


The U.S. Department of Transportation requires alcohol and drug awareness training of supervisors who oversee employees in safety-sensitive positions.

This training must encompass one hour of alcohol awareness and education and another hour of drug awareness training and education with the purpose of helping these managers spot the signs and symptoms of substance abuse in the workplace or behaviors that give rise to reasonable suspicion of workplace substance abuse.

There is a lot packed into the above paragraph above, but here’s what important to note: That’s about all they say about what must occur regarding training of supervisors! You are pretty much on your own to figure out what training should ultimately include.

U.S. DOT Does Specify a Heck of A Lot

The DOT does not specify the type of training modality. They don’t mention anything about certification. And the government has no rules associated with the types of drugs that must be focused on in training. Note: When the 1986 Drug Free Workplace Act was signed by President Ronald Reagan, five general categories of drugs of abuse were mention specifically, including Phencyclidine or PCP. Remember that stuff? You don’t hear much about it anymore, but it’s still out there. (Controls on its ingredients caused a fast drop-off in its production by drug criminals.)

WorkExcel.com’s training always hit these five major drug categories –

  • alcohol,
  • depressants,
  • stimulants,
  • hallucinogens,
  • and PCP.

Within these categories are host of other drugs of abuse like various opioids, club drugs, inhalants, and odd substances, many of which are illegal but still available off the Internet – peyote, mescaline, bath sales, Spice/K2, Saliva, Ketamine, GHB, Meth, Ecstasy, and more.

We wrote this article from experience and include nine tips we think are worth considering when you are training your supervisors in reasonable suspicion. There are more than nine tips that we would like to share, but at the risk of making this article no longer than it is right now, let’s keep it to these nine.

Reasonable suspicion training of supervisors is a lot more than just turning on a video to manager  get educated on this stuff. All supervisors come with a host of experiences, biases, myths, and misconceptions about alcohol, drug abuse, addiction, who gets these afflictions, why they get these afflictions, and what should be done about it once a person realizes they are an addict.

What About Alcoholic DOT Supervisors?

Let’s face it, you may have supervisors who are alcoholics. Often they can be the most opinionated in drug and alcohol awareness classes. Don’t argue with them when they espouse their long held, but deeply wrong-headed ideas and theories about addiction. Some of your supervisors may also have years of recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous. Some may even disclose this to the other supervisors in the class for the first time.

We have an Alcohol Awareness section in our training that is powerful, educational, and amazingly impactful. You can see it here if you jump to the end of the training program.

When discussing reasonable suspicion training, it is important to provide DOT supervisors with background information on training, testing, and intervention with drug and alcohol users in the workplace. There only needs to be a slide or two about rationale for why training and drug use intervention in the workplace is important, but definitely have it.

Background Information Helps Supervisors

Some supervisors may be skeptical about the practicality of drug use intervention in the workplace, and may see drug testing and reasonable suspicion training with a jaundiced eye. There is a business rationale for this activity that boils down to dollars and cents, in addition to lives saved and other immeasurable costs.

President Reagan signed an Executive Order in 1986 requiring the Federal government to institute Drug Free Workplace programs for civilian and military employees. Drug testing was included.

This was a dramatic (and controversial) step toward reasonable suspicion training for substance abuse in the workplace, but dramatic increased treatment of alcoholics and addicts. This of course also help such persons keep their jobs. Indeed, with the Drug Free Workplace Act came a provision to offer workers help when they got caught and tested positive.

These laws helped alcoholics reduce the inclination to hide their symptoms or otherwise go to dramatic lengths to not get caught. Ever see an image of someone pouring brown liquor in a coffee mug? Did you know that Head Shops (retailers of drug paraphernalia) sell plastic office supplies like magic markers that are really cleverly disguised crack pipes (preview our DOT supervisor training program to see more – also Chapsticks lip baums for crack!)

Fifteen years earlier before federal drug free workplace laws were passed, a mainstream movement began to treat alcoholics and addicts as disease-affected individuals. They key hallmark—denial.

This movement gradually affected federal laws governing the handicapped, and eventually protections of addicts—at least within the federal government under Section 504 of the National Handicapped Act began. The policy theory: Addicts and alcoholics are unaware of their diagnosis. They compare themselves “out” of the definition. They look for symptoms they don’t have to convince themselves and others that they do not have addiction; and, if they acquire anew any of these once denied symptoms, they change their definition again to avoid self-diagnosis.

Reasonable suspicion training for DOT and Non-DOT supervisors, then, is the only pathway to protecting life and limb, or helping confront these individuals to seek help.

EAP Employee Assistance Programs and human resources management have stayed in pretty solid agreement on the value of salvaging addicted employees for one reason – treatment works and alcoholics recover.

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Alcoholic and Drug Addicted Employees Bounce Back

When alcoholics recover, they often bounce back 101% -- they get well, but go beyond that to get better than well. They improve their wellness mindset, they experience improved emotional health. They dedicate themselves to work more definitively and they become loyal workers who are thankful for their new station in life.

Addicts in recovery begin making more effective life choices than non-addicts. They become your “Eagle Scout” workers if they remain in solid and continuous recovery programs.

They become super valuable workers. Do relapses happen? Yes, relapse does happen, but every disease has relapse periods or elements. What’s the intervention then? It’s swift—get the worker back on their program even it means the absolute threat of job loss. But this is key, never see a relapse as a return to the same massive problems that led to the admission in the first place. Rely upon effective employee assistance program systems to monitor recovering workers and spot their early symptoms of pending relapse. It is not hard to do.

The bottom line is that with good follow up, companies save a ton of money if they push addicts into treatment and prevent their termination. And they reap the financial rewards for doing so.

Testing people’s urine has always been controversial, but the courts ruled in favor of employer safety, (and sanity) and after an AMTRAK train piloted by drug using employee in the Baltimore, Maryland area killed a bunch of people, the controversy pretty much dissipated. The drug of choice in that incident was marijuana.

For over ten years prior to 1986, and actually a lot longer than that, alcoholism was viewed as a disease process by the Office of Personnel Management of the Federal government.

Alcoholism Is a Disease Process

The federal government treated alcoholism as an illness like any other (covered under Section 504 of the National Handicap Act) and enormous latitude given to help active alcoholics. The ADA did away with this and made it easier to fire alcoholics, not protect them. This cause the treatment industry to grow rapidly. Even the CIA Alcohol Awareness Program began under Stansfield Turner.

The laws regarding rehabilitation non-discrimination, and OPM’s interpretation of them had its history in the occupational alcoholism movement, NIAAA, and the experience of recovering alcoholics many of who were attorneys like the late Frank Ridley, Esq. founder of the Legal Action Network for Alcoholic Recovery in Washington, D.C.

This movement to fight for addicts and help them “recover them from job loss” would eventually be turned on its head by the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1991.

I distinguish firm choice letters from “last chance” letters – because last chance letters do not typically address treatment, follow-up, accommodation, illness, and key communication issues crucial to success.

The idea helping alcoholics and viewing the alcoholic as blind to their illness is the basis of the FIRM CHOICE LETTER – which in effect is an accommodation, not a punitive action to help an alcoholic accept help or lose something they value more like a paycheck.

If the accommodation to accept an assessment and appropriate help is not accepted, GOOD BYE!

Thousands of alcoholics have gotten sober this way. And this “performance-based intervention” “formula” is still being used today. (You can learn more about it here and hire a consultant to help your business organization apply the approach if you are facing a crisis with an alcoholic in your company, especially with one you value like.

This “positive coercion” still exists in practice today, but it is no longer illegal to fire an active alcoholic. There is no requirement to offer help in an active state of drinking, but many private industries still do so because alcoholism is the most treatable thing on the planet if done correctly, and followed up vigorously. Why lose a valuable worker? It’s economic self-interest that drives a more sane approach after all!

This history above is important for people to understand as they consider reasonable suspicion training with for non-DOT or DOT supervisors because questions will arise in the context of training that touch on issues of cause, effect, intervention, treatment, enabling, myths, misconceptions, and anger and shock from supervisors who have alcoholism in their families and who have for decades decided upon their own “pet explanations” for what happened in their homes growing up.

These folks can unwittingly sabotage a drug free workplace program if their misconceptions interfere with the practical realities of a biological disease.

So, much changed in the 1990’s and it started with the American with Disabilities Act where henceforth alcoholics could not be discriminated against if they were in recovery (that’s good), but could in fact be fired if actively drinking or drugging (that can be bad.) The ADA made it more likely that alcoholics would cover up their drinking rather than seek help as they once did. What do you think about this?

The Legal Action Network for Alcoholic Recovery (LANSAR) fought the ADA provisions on these grounds above. But let’s move on.

The movement to help employees with alcoholism was well under way in the 1950’s in fact, and later when the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism with the “Hugh’s Act” in 1972 the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Rehabilitation Act of 1972 ramped up many alcoholism funding opportunities spurring the founding of treatment, rehab, journals, associations, intervention services, and much more.

There was a lot of controversy before and after these historical events about the value and ethics of drug testing workers, treatment, the cause of alcoholism, addiction, and how to treat it. These issues must be addressed in reasonable suspicion training for supervisors because clearing up confusion among supervisors is of paramount importance to prevent conflicts of beliefs about addiction and substance abuse.

Now, what about drug testing? One concern focused on the question of “privacy” and personal rights. Is it a violation of a person’s rights under the 4th amendment against illegal search and seizure to have their urine tested for illegal or illicit drug use? Is it a violation of one’s human rights to see if they have alcohol on their breath? The courts ruled “no” – employers do have legitimate business interest in having employees remain drug free. This final judgment under-girds reasonable suspicion training.

Admittedly, these questions almost derailed drug testing laws, and they were so controversial at the time, that even today, employees will protest getting drug tested when their name is called, or there is reasonable suspicion that one is under the influence of a psychoactive drug.

We will refer to the term psychoactive drug in reasonable suspicion training to reference alcohol, marijuana, or any substance that has the effect of changing ones mood or creating a high or “buzz.” Most of these drugs are also addictive. Marijuana is addictive, by the way, but like alcohol, not for everyone.

The annual reports in Colorado that assess the damage to the state from the horrors inflicted by the legalization of marijuana are plain to see every year, and this report which is mandated by state law is pure facts. For example, highway deaths for people under the influence have skyrocketed because of legal pot use.

There are many drugs that can create a high, and many you may never hear about. Some are sold illegally on the Internet. We’ll cover some of them below.

Any drug testing service in your community will be able to help you establish and drug testing program, including paper work and forms and policies. I recommend that you also consult your attorney have them do a read through of the program you are establishing so you feel protected in even some administrative mishap or controversy regarding drug testing seeks as its goal to interfere with you program to intervene with workplace substance abuse.

Employees who should be tested in your company are not just the ones acting drunk or appearing high on the job. Your drug testing program should also consider other positions important to the safe operation of your company and create a random testing provision, but asking your attorney first.

Although employees who drive trucks (DOT Regulated positions) must be in a random drug testing pool annually, you may want to inquire about others who manage money, or who are in other positions requiring great trust. Inquire with your attorney to see what is legal and appropriate for your organization based upon also what is reasonable and customary.

When you educate supervisors on your drug and alcohol policy and drug testing procedures, critical to the process will be reasonable suspicion training. I am going to give you the benefit of my experience having done this for 30 years, and having interviewed employees referred to me after testing – all types of employees from cocaine addicts, alcoholics, and heroin users—some of the nicest and sweetest manipulators you will ever meet.

The risk of being sued by employees when you have an effective drug and alcohol education and testing program is very low, especially if your legal department has given you the green light on your process and procedures. But the rewards are extremely high.

Unfortunately, or fortunately—you will never prove a negative when it comes to the success of your reasonable suspicion training for supervisors and drug testing program. That means, you will never prove that the disaster or accidental death of a worker that did NOT happen, was the result of your taking due care in helping to prevent it. There are ways of measuring impact using convincing before and after studies of cost factors however, but I will discuss those in another article.

Think twice before paying a live trainer enormous fees to deliver training. You can find good DOT reasonable suspicion training (purchase the course and keep it) by googling “WorkExcel DOT Editable PowerPoint Training for Reasonable Suspicion.”

So, one other practical suggestion: Acquire a training program with notes for a live trainer and a program (like PowerPoint) that can run like a show, which you purchase that allows anyone with knowledge or no knowledge, the ability to present the material. Also, get permission to make a couple sets of the program if need to pass on to other trainers if your organization is large, or break up the training (it is supposed to be two hours remember) so you can deliver say, 30 minutes at a time.

Remember, it is not necessary to have a professional experienced in drug and alcohol addiction treatment, counseling, or even formal training present to conduct DOT Supervisor Training.          

Reasonable Suspicion Training Tip 1: Alcohol – Get this One Right

Let’s get boring for a minute. These dramatic drugs of abuse you may hear about in the news are not what contribute to death and mayhem in the workplace in great proportion. The real culprit is alcohol.

Needless to say, alcohol is the most common drug of abuse. It also has the most myths and misconceptions associated with it because it has been around for thousands of years. This length of time has helped ensure lots of confusion about alcohol use, abuse, alcoholism, who becomes alcoholic, and why, how best to recover, who recovers the right way, and what does recovery from alcoholism really mean. It’s exhausting!

Marijuana is the #2 of abuse in the workplace, and it has as almost as many myths associated with it thanks to the marijuana lobby and groups like NORML that have sought for decades to propagandize the harmlessness of pot and many benefits it can instill on society.

Are you personally curious about the harm marijuana causes? You need some facts. I would like to give you two links that will connect you with plenty facts about cannabis and its enormous harm to help you fight the propaganda. You may even fend well at a social gather where the topic arises.

I will bet money you have not seen one or both of these resources: 1) Impact of Marijuana Legalization on Colorado 7th annual report 2019: https://rmhidta.org/files/D2DF/FINAL-Volume6.pdf

2) 150 Negative Studies on Marijuana: https://www.independentsentinel.com/150-scientific-studies-showing-the-dangers-of-marijuana/

Join my mailing list to reports like these sent to your inbox. You can unsubscribe anytime.

If you are researching what content to include in your own training, try the video product or YouTube presentation called “Thinking about Your Drinking” – you can also find it at WorkExcel.com. Go ahead and borrow some of the ideas you see there.

Reasonable Suspicion Training Tip 2: Drugs Specifics
There are many different psychoactive drugs of abuse that you can include in reasonable suspicion training, but it isn’t necessary to cover each one or its symptoms. I won’t go over every drug you can put in a reasonable suspicion training presentation, but I will highlight a few that are worth helping supervisors understand. You can then visit http://drugabuse.gov, find all the substances of abuse and isolate the information you want to share with your managers. It’s a great site to get specific drug information.

The Federal DOT requires the following substances to be addressed in DOT Training:

Alcohol – Beverage alcohol products and medicinal products that contain ethanol.

Depressants – Depressants are prescription medications used as anti-anxiety agents like Ativan, Valium, Xanax, and Clonopin. These are minor tranquilizers. Major tranquilizers, more common in the 1960s and 1970s—and more deadly when combined with alcohol—are also important to discuss in DOT reasonable suspicion training and education courses.

Amphetamines & Stimulants – These drugs include medications like Dexedrine, speed, Ritalin, Adderall for ADHD and illicit drugs like Cocaine and methamphetamine

Narcotics & Designer Drugs – these drug like heroin Dilaudid, and other opium based derivatives like Fentanyl, Heroin, and Morphine or synthetic drugs that mimic these Opium based substances. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now requests that all federal employees that fall under DOT provisions also received brief education about four Opioids. These include Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Oxycodone, and Oxymorphone. They are all pain relievers, but there does not have to be more said about them. Awareness is the key.

Hallucinogens & PCP – LSD, Ecstasy, Psilocybin mushrooms, Mescaline and Peyote, PCP, and various “club drugs” – many of these include date rate and predatorily used medications, are manufactured illicitly in Europe in imported to the USA.

Inhalants – inhalants are substances that contain volatile fumes, many of which can cause death and plenty of brain damage. Glue is the most recognized form of inhalant that can cause brain damage, or at least, it has gotten the most press. The DOT does not require or recommend that you introduce supervisors to the problems associated with inhaling volatile substances, but let me share a uncomfortable fact about drug addicts that may have you think twice and consider offering education about it.

All addicts, no matter what their preferred psychoactive substance used to get high, have the one drug they prefer. Perhaps it is alcohol. Maybe it is cocaine. What happens if choice #1 or #2 are not available? What if the urge to use a substance suddenly overcomes an employee?

Answer: The nearest psychoactive substance or mood-altering substance that could mimic a “high” would might be considered. Withdrawal is this powerful. So the “cure” to the craving might be an inhalant if it is handy enough.

This is why some alcoholics will drink mouthwash or perfume. Pride comes before the fall, or this case the need to get high will come first, and whatever the substance and stigma associated with using it, will come last.

Inhalants make the user feel drunk. This in turn will affect psychomotor abilities noticeable to the observing supervisor. No other reasonable suspicion training program for DOT supervisors (or non-DOT supervisors) contains this bit of information, but WorkExcel.com’s program does.

If you are someplace in the mid-West, you may have a concern about drugs like Methamphetamine. However, if you are in Miami, your concern may be more about date rape drugs like Rohypinol (“roofies”) . So, consider not just the federal government mandate concerning types of substances, but also the geographic area where you happen to be located.

It is really is not important to the supervisor or the organization for that matter, whether the employee is high on Spice K2 or Salvia. What’s important is recognizing behavior so bizarre that the threshold for reasonable suspicion is met so intervention and testing can occur, or when a test is useless because it won’t find a drug metabolite, a fitness for duty evaluation can be ordered and completed before the employee can return to work.

For example, there is no requirement for supervisors to learn about Peyote which is derived from Mescaline, a cactus plant found in the American southwest. It is similar to LSD. There is a DOT requirement to discuss hallucinogens as a drug category.  

LSD is the most popular of the hallucinogens, and it is also the most powerful. LSD, Psilocybin (magic mushrooms), DMT, Ketamine (Special K), and PCP (phencyclidine) are also hallucinogens, but PCP is probably the strangest one in this group, and some argue it is in a class all by itself.

An overdose of PCP literally untreatable. Essentially being controlled so you do not hurt or kill yourself—or someone else—is how use of the substance is managed.

With each drug category, discuss nature of the drug, signs and symptoms of use, hazards of use in the workplace, and effects on psychomotor disturbances.

Reasonable Suspicion Training Tip 3: Weird Drugs You Should Mention
There are drugs of abuse that once ingested to not produce metabolites, which are critical for drug tests to be effective in spotting a substance after its used. Metabolites are evidence of digestion or the body metabolizing the substance and producing a by-product from the chemical reaction with bodily enzymes like those found in the liver.

No drug tests exists for many types of hallucinogenic type drugs such as Spice K2, (but testing companies are reportedly working on one.) Other drugs dangerous enough to mention include Salvia, Bath Salts, and GHB. Also Ketamine, Peyote, and Rohypinol. You can see a preview of our reasonable suspicion training program and jump to the sections on these substance if you are curious.

Even though a drug test won’t detect use of some odd psychoactive drugs, managers should still have a general awareness for what they are. These drugs above are highly dangerous, in that the user must be surrounded by friends to prevent self-harm or accidentally killing themselves while high on the drug. To see one of these drugs and how people behave on it, visit YouTube and in the search bar (on the YouTube page) enter “Salvia” to watch people in distress who have used this substance. Now imagine an employee or warehouse worker on a fork lift high on Salvia.

Reasonable Suspicion Training Tip 4: Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of substance abuse are not all associated with psychomotor disturbances like stumbling and slurring of one’s speech. Frankly, I have never seen a drunk employee slurring their speech in the workplace in my 25 years of education, assessment, and intervention. Most alcoholics are perfectly capable of speaking clearly when moderately drunk because they have tolerance, which means their nervous system is not affected to the degree that such is noticeable.

Some signs and symptoms relate to mood swings. Others are associated with withdrawal and memory loss. Still documental signs and symptoms include attitude changes from a calm quiet mood to one of anger, depression, or suspicion.

Always use a checklist when constructing documentation. Use a toxicity checklist and a performance issues checklist. One measure substance abuse effects and the other measures job performance, conduct, and attendance effects. Both are helpful in constructing documentation. Search WorkExcel.com for a good signs and symptoms checklist for use in reasonable suspicion training.

Reasonable Suspicion Training Tip 5: Performance Issues of Drug Users
Signs and symptoms are the same as performance issues when it comes to drug and alcohol abusing or addictive employees in the workplace. Many trainers, including myself, believe that performance signs and symptoms are often more reliable for spotting drug or alcohol addicted employees than physical signs and symptoms. These workplace behavioral shortcomings and problems are then used as leverage to get an employee to a counselor, typically an employee assistance professional, who can then do an assessment and determine what comes next. This sort of referral can happen long before alcohol on the breath, stumbling or mood changes ever appear – in fact many years, if not decades before.

A case in point would be a 69 year old Heroin addict who is a janitor in a school symptom and who has worked in the same job for 28 years—but whose absenteeism has finally become more problematic, frequently, longer in days. A heroin addict can look like a million dollars in an interview with and the most skilled drug and alcohol counselor won’t notice the addiction problem.

Such a referral to a counselor could only be made based upon performance, but a complete assessment including a medical referral, and other assessment questions might very well produce an inpatient admission.

So you can see how all of this works. Signs and symptoms are not necessary that visible and behaviors, performance, and conduct might very well be.

Reasonable Suspicion Training Tip 6: Manipulation Ploys that Fake Out DOT Supervisors
We like to cover manipulation in reasonable suspicion training so supervisors are on their toes and expect these ploys perpetrated by addicts who are desperate not to get caught for drinking and drugging in the workplace. There are dozens of such manipulative scenarios, but we will cover a few. You can the top ten in the DOT Reasonable Suspicion Training program at WorkExcel.com or you can purchase this element of training separately from us at the following link.

“We’re Friends”
Many supervisors have been faced with the need to confront an employee because of reasonable suspicion of being under the influence and faced a big bump in the road: They are also friends with the employee.

Are you friends with your employees? Do you party together? Go fishing? Share secrets about your spouses or partners? Were you the “best man” at the wedding? Have you been in tough jams where you bailed each other out of close calls (whatever they might have been ala “The Hangover II”.)

If you are close friends with those you supervise, you will face a crisis in a situation where you must choose confrontation and referral for a drug test over ignoring the situation call for a reasonable suspicion intervention on the job. Looking the other way drug and alcohol test with the goal of looking the other way and avoiding a crisis—nay—the loss of the friendship with your employee.

Indeed, that is exactly what will happen if you do your job and refer your buddy for a drug and alcohol test. They are going to protest, hope to talk you out of it, and use the relationship as a weapon to convince you to ignore your duty to refer to testing. Friends don’t do that. Instead, a real friend would suck it up.

Think of the risks involved in ignoring your job to confront and refer your employee both for yourself, the company, safety, the general public, coworkers, etc. As you can readily see, is a problem that you should decide right now how you will handle if you are ever faced with it.

The correct management of this potential problem is to tell all employees you supervise that you will not play favorites when it comes to reasonable suspicion testing, and also say, that it is obvious why not—your job and many risks and consequences would be on the line.

The smart thing to do is not to be friends with those you supervise—do not join clubs, play cards, drink alcohol, party, loan money, or counsel them about their personal problems. If you do, the type of relationship will grow to the point where it will take priority over your job and supervisory functions.

 You must not depend on your employees to get your personal relationship needs met from them. This is called a dual relationship.

Does it sound impossible to forego all of the benefits of a personal relationship with your employees for the sake of being able to manage a task like confronting one of them for reasonable suspicion of substance abuse?

Tough question isn’t it. The goal of these several paragraphs is to get you thinking and finding the right answer for yourself. If all supervisors would do just this much, many lives and jobs could be saved nationwide.

“You’ll ruin my career”

Someday, you can expect that an employee you confront for signs and symptoms of alcohol or drug use on the job saying, “You will ruin my career” if you send me for a test. Hopefully before this happens, they will have a solid understanding of your responsibility because this is a tough place to be as you can imagine—having to listen to the fear coming from your employee or following through with your responsibility to refer for a test.

Let’s face it. Although most company alcohol and drug policies protect workers from reprisals, people are the ones who make decisions, and these deciders could always discriminate against a worker when it comes to hiring and promotion, just as they might based upon their internal politics.

“It’s Medicine or Mouthwash”

Certainly one of the most common retorts from employees who confronted with alcohol on the breath, and who in fact, have been drinking on the job is the excuse that what the supervisor is smelling is only mouthwash. The other excuse commonly used is that the supervisor is really smelling medicine. With either of these excuses, the supervisor might envision a substance like Listerine as the order to which the employee is making reference. After all, these consumer products do small pretty “mediciny.”
But here is the catch. So what? If what you smell on the breath of the worker is alcohol-like in its make up, then you have a good cause to recommend a test. No reason to feel intimidated. Make this point in your reasonable suspicion training class.

We mentioned before that alcoholics may turn to other substances that contain alcohol, and drink them in order to ward off withdrawal. Mouthwash (some of which is 25% alcohol or 50 proof) happens to be one of them. The other is medicine of some type. And of course, we have our perfume drinkers. Sound crazy and not believable? I would suggest you take in a few Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meetings where you will hear these authentic presentations on what alcoholics now in recovery, once did while in the hey-day of their drinking careers, as they often refer to them.

Reasonable Suspicion Training Tip 7: Incorporate the EAP?

If your organization has an employee assistance program or EAP, be sure to incorporate its purpose and how to use it in your reasonable suspicion training program education. EAPs are confidential. Very confidential. In fact their confidentiality provisions, although not absolute, are stricter than those guarding medical records or any other confidentiality laws in the nation. Why? This was purposeful when the 1972 Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Rehabilitation Act was passed by President Nixon. The idea was to make confidentiality laws so strict that people would be encouraged to seek treatment voluntarily more readily.

Always encourage people to get help via the EAP. Also, remember this. At some point, supervisors may not have another to conduct a reasonable suspicion test, but they may have enough information to say something appropriate to the employee with, say, a hangover – like, “hey, man, you should call the EAP. It looks like you have a too many of these hangovers.”

Always remember, that confrontation of addicts in cumulative. Over time, the likelihood of their seeking and/or accepting treatment is directly proportional to the frequency of confrontations, close calls, interventions, and other bad experiences related to their drinking.


Reasonable Suspicion Training Tip 8: DVD, PowerPoint, Video, or Web Course
Training supervisors in drug and alcohol awareness is often done on-site using PowerPoint programs. In my experience, this is the most common method, but if you have a group of supervisors, how many don’t show out of every 10?

Do you have a method of reach each one? How long are you willing to pursue these supervisors to come back to the training room and watch a PowerPoint on a laptop? Needless to say this is not very practical, and you risk never reaching every supervisor unless you have a very aggressive HR manager or safety director in charge of training who really knows how to pin managers down.

A better way to go is to have a Web course. And here is the beautiful thing! You can own a Web course that will play like a movie hands off, and use this in a training room --- or online where a certificate of completion is issued from the course with the supervisors name imprinted on it with date and time stamp as well. So, this way you have a couple different ways to train that allow you to quickly reach every supervisor, especially the ones that got away.

Don’t discount resistance. If you have 10-12 supervisors, chances are that one of them is alcoholic. These individuals will be inclined more than the others to skip out of training.

Imagine this – sending an email to every supervisor with a link to the Web course. Then a week later expecting everyone one to turn in a copy of their certificate. Any supervisors who have not done so are email the link again with a more assertive message on management’s part to complete training.

This is how you reduce risk in an organization!

Reasonable Suspicion Training Tip 9: Don’t Bore Your DOT Supervisors
If you train DOT supervisors, break up the training into different types of learning experiences. For example, some audio visual, some handouts to read, some educational test questions that expand on important concepts.

A huge myth among employers who much conform to DOT training is that the entire two hours of training must be comprised of audio/visual material. Not true. I have phone the DOT in Washington, DC myself. Even group discussion of pertinent content can quality has part of the 2-hour drug and alcohol training. Personally, I like to give supervisors lots of questions, have them answer the question, and then give them a paragraph of education about why the answer to certain question is the way it is.

So, the message with this tip is – don’t put your supervisors to sleep because you will increase risk to everyone.

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