Drilling Down on Drug Policies in Oil and Gas

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In 2018, the oil industry enjoyed a good year. However as the second American shale revolution boomed in the Permian Basin (West Texas), drug and alcohol abuse among oil field workers also flourished. The temptation to experiment with illegal drugs for workers isn’t hard to imagine. For many working in harsh conditions and through 24-hour-plus shifts, painkillers reduce aches, snorting meth jumpstarts a day or binge drinking masks depression. As you would expect, safety issues are a legitimate concern when impaired workers report for a shift.

So how does a site supervisor spot drug or alcohol issues within a crew? There’s been an alarming percentage increase of U.S. workers in safety-sensitive jobs flunking DOT-mandated drug tests, so recognizing and then confronting the problem head on is the answer. Identifying those workers who may be chronic users is key; and a hair drug test can detect these lifestyle users and help keep them away from safety sensitive positions. According to Federal data, construction workers (including oil/drilling) use drugs at a higher rate than other workers.

It’s important for our clients and prospects—perhaps with our coaching—to ask themselves some questions.

  • Do I know how to spot the signs of an impaired employee?
  • Do I have well-communicated drug policies in place?
  • Am I creating a culture of safety and open communication, for all parties involved?

And then to put a program in place that works.

Perhaps even more than other safety-sensitive job sites, the oil field requires mental focus and quick reactions. It is critical for this industry to operate a robust substance abuse program to enable and sustain a safe work environment for its employees and lower business risks as well.

On a national scale and for the fifth consecutive year, unintentional workplace overdoses and drug-related deaths have increased 25 percent, which is leading employers to reevaluate drug policies. For sure, in a full-employment market cracking down can run counter to hiring, but construction firms both in the oil field and downtown face a similar dilemma. Impaired workers are proven to bring a healthy dose of risk to work with them. A Boston based construction firm, Messer, has little to no tolerance for workers who use or abuse substances. Vice President Matt Schnelle says the company hasn’t seen overdose issues on job sites because of the strict drug screening process which includes pre-employment and random testing.

“Having someone who is impaired is not an option. It’s something we’re focused on to maintain a drug-free workplace. Our clients are focused on it.”

 Substance abuse on the job site, whether in the oil field or downtown, is a personal as well as business problem with all paths leading to negative outcomes. This week I focus on the importance of workplace drug policies for the oil and drilling industry. 

Coke, Meth and Booze: The Flip Side of The Permian Basin Oil Boom

As the Permian Basin booms in West Texas, the subculture of drug and alcohol abuse flourishes among oil field workers.

How to Spot Drug or Alcohol Abuse Issues in Drilling Crews

See how taking the proper steps and implementing a substance abuse program can create a safer environment. 

Workplace Drug Overdoses Increase Again Nationwide

Drug-related overdoses and deaths are at new highs. Employers reevaluate drug policies to regain control.