A reasonable suspicion checklist that includes a comprehensive listing of possible warning signs and symptoms can help you decide whether to act in accordance with your organization’s reasonable suspicion testing and drug-free workplace policy.
It can also aid you in constructing documentation that is effective and useful. But a list is only half the help you need. The rest is a comprehensive discussion of what all these signs and symptom mean, how to document them properly, what your own myths and misconceptions are about addiction and substance abuse, sub-questions to consider in gathering information, and adopting a mindset that will help you assemble documentation that useful for its administrative purposes, whatever those might be.
When can reasonable suspicion be substantiated? Reasonable suspicion that an employee is using alcohol or other drugs exists when “specific, contemporaneous, “articulable” (able to clearly describe and quantify with senses) observations concerning the appearance, behavior, speech, or body odors of the employee demonstrate the possible use of substances.”
Let’s Hit Every Sign and Symptom from a Checklist for DOT Reasonable Suspicion Training
Employee stumbles and staggers….
When employees stumble or stagger, such a condition represents an unusual level of intoxication resulting from the use of psychoactive substances that also affect psychomotor skills. But not so fast! Most DOT supervisors might think that this is an alcoholic symptom. Most alcoholics on the job never drink so much that the stumble. Because their tolerance is so high, they can drink the amount of alcohol that would cause a non-alcoholic to stumble.
When it comes to an employee who is drunk and stumbling, typically they will be young men who have been drinking alcohol at some social event, party, or reunion. Such a person needs referral, but in most cases—in my experience—these are alcohol assessment and alcohol/drug education referrals, not treatment referrals.
Many alcoholics or drug addicted person can consume psychoactive substances that affect mood and visual or auditory senses, but addicts who have consumed enough of substance that even tolerance does not prevent them from being spotted, is indeed remarkable. Most substance abusing employees do not want to stagger, so doing so means they are out of control.
When your employee stumbles should be recorded. Also record what he or she was doing at the time of observing the stumbling. Also record where they were when the stumbling and staggering occurred, and how you were able to see this behavioral symptom happen.