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The International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers

Drug-Free Workplace Promising Practice

The following Drug-Free Workplace Alliance member profile illustrates a promising practice for workplace substance abuse programs and is provided for strictly informational purposes.

The International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (otherwise know as the Insulators) is a labor union representing more than 23,000 members in the United States and Canada.

The Insulators union is a member of the U.S. Department of Labor's Drug-Free Workplace Alliance, which aims to improve worker safety and health in the construction industry through drug-free workplace programs. Supporting such issues has long been a priority of the Insulators. While the union does not have a national drug-free workplace policy in place, its workers must always abide by the drug and alcohol policies enforced on contractor worksites. Further, the union encourages its locals to take leadership in working with contractors to fashion drug-free workplace programs, which ideally should include written policies, employee education, supervisor training, employee or member assistance programs (EAP/MAP) and drug-testing.

Programs at the Local Level

Most of the Insulators' locals maintain some form of a drug-free workplace program, and some are quite comprehensive. For example, Chicago's Local 17 has implemented a drug testing program in alliance with the Illinois Regional Insulation Contractors Association (IRIC). Local 17 recognized that initiating its own drug-free workplace program would help contractors recognize their commitment to job safety.

The IRIC/Local 17 drug-free workplace program is included in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that IRIC negotiates with the union and signs on behalf of more than 60 signatory contractors. Designed to deter the negative effects of on-the-job substance use and impairment, the drug-free workplace policy is one of the conditions and terms that apply to all contractors employing Local 17 members-even those from outside the region. In addition, the agreement extends to those not in the bargaining unit-including maintenance, sales, clerical, management, owners and part-time employees.

IRIC and Local 17 engaged the services of a third party to administer their program, which requires workers to be tested without notice at least once every two years and possibly more often. The IRIC/Local 17 policy calls for drug testing in three circumstances:

1. Systematic computer-selected testing (unannounced)
2. Testing for cause (including post-accident testing)
3. Accelerated repeat testing (following a positive test)

When a Local 17 worker tests positive for drugs or alcohol, a Medical Review Officer (MRO) reviews the findings and contacts the participant to determine a reason for the positive test. If the final result is still positive, the MRO refers the individual to the local's (or contractor's) EAP and removes him or her from work until the evaluation by the EAP is completed. The EAP then works with management to arrange a Return-to-Work agreement when warranted.

Like many of the policies adopted by the Insulators' locals, the program is designed to help those in need. In fact, those who seek help prior to being drug tested receive assistance without disciplinary consequences. Moreover, there will be no disciplinary actions against workers who test positive for drug use, as long as they comply with the treatment recommendations of the EAP. If, however, they do not comply with those recommendations, disciplinary action-including termination-may result, and union members become ineligible for referral to another IRIC job until they have successfully completed a treatment program.

The Craftsman's Code of Conduct

In addition to encouraging drug-free workplace programs among its locals, the Insulators union maintains an umbrella Code of Conduct that applies to every single union member. Launched in 2005, the Code addresses a range of expected worker behaviors-from punctuality to safety and courtesy on the worksite. All union members are mandated to attend a six-hour class on the Code of Conduct, and they are fined if they do not report for the class.

Soon, "working drug and alcohol free" will become formally integrated into the Code of Conduct. And, when that occurs, Code-related employee education will offer the Insulators a chance to further highlight the topic of substance abuse among members.

Supervisor and Worker Education

Ultimately, the Insulators union intends to implement a union-wide drug-free workplace policy that is national in scope. But in the near term, the union has focused its efforts on supervisor and worker education.

As part of the Alliance's promotion of Drug-Free Work Week, an annual education and awareness campaign sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor every October, the union sends educational brochures, fact sheets, pocket cards and hard-hat stickers to all of its locals, encouraging worksites to observe the week through educational activities. It also publishes articles about drug-free workplace issues in its publications and urges supervisors to deliver "Tool Box Talks" on drug and alcohol topics during Drug-Free Work Week, and all year long.

"We consider drug-free workplace programs another tool we can add to our members' tool pouches," said Terry Lynch, Health Hazard Administrator for the Insulators. "In addition to paying major health and safety dividends, they're one more way that we can make our workers more professional and more employable."

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