The 2019 Dry Bulk Terminal Group ‘Operational and Technical Seminar’ took place in Southampton in October 2019, and our MD of Spinnaker’s HR Consulting team, Karen Waltham, was invited to deliver a workshop on Drugs and Alcohol policies (and the management of them within dry bulk terminals).
In the week that also marked ‘World Mental Health Day’, 60 delegates from around the globe engaged in a lively debate on the dangers and impact that drugs and alcohol can have in the dry bulk terminal environment.
Here’s a summary of the top 5 discussion points:
- Safety – We wouldn’t be true to shipping if we didn’t reference safety as the number one driver for any drugs and alcohol policies / initiatives. However, as the discussion evolved, the knowledge around what constitutes acceptable levels of alcohol seemed a grey area.
- People impact – Despite people being an organisation’s most precious resource, there still remains a lack of clarity over the responsibilities of HR (where it exists) and line managers in managing those assets – particularly when safety and people issues combine. The impact of unsafe use of machinery is fairly well understood and documented, but the cost implications of associated staff absence combined with the impact on surrounding team members is harder to measure.
- Education is fundamental. Investing in employee and management training to help staff identify the signs and understand the causes of drug and alcohol misuse will help early identification. Increased awareness should underpin all people decisions and job design.
- Lead by example – All managers, right up to the very top, need to lead by example and appreciate the real implications of people using and misusing drugs and alcohol in a working environment. Investing in soft skills generally will ensure those people who need help and support receive it at the earliest opportunity. Self-reflection too at personal behaviour and the subliminal messages being conveyed should be considered.
- Know and follow your policies – Drug and alcohol policies were in place in some areas, and prove effective if managed well. Similarly, Absence Management is an area which could be explored further. Disciplinary and Performance Management policies and procedures too were being utilised well, with a focus on support initially and dismissals as a last resort. Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) were acknowledged as a way to encourage early resolution and negate the need for formal action. Drug & Alcohol testing was used by some, but there is common understanding that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach due to local limitations and laws. However, the importance of building trust with individual employees was considered key before implementing any such measures. The organisational culture is the driver and some shared how changes had been needed to ensure the safety, wellbeing and ultimate productivity of their people.
This no doubt all sounds very familiar, and is a perfect example of the link between management capability and safety. With managers traditionally appointed based largely on technical ability, the increased importance of people related ‘soft’ skills is growing. Businesses are looking to develop their leaders of the future, but also provide existing managers with the training and investment they need in order to be able to reach their full potential – and support their staff in achieving the same. The role of HR is critical in helping the business achieve that.