Baguio City –  In workplaces every employer’s goal is to have a team of efficient and reliable workers who are always productive, never late, nor absenting themselves for the smallest of reasons. After all, reliability and consistency are fundamentals to a good business. In fact consistent employees would beat even those who are gifted but are entirely self-entitled and unreliable. Therefore, it would be in the company’s or business establishment best interest to hire reliable and healthy employees.

A burden to this is having employees who are into drugs or other illegal substances because they pose a problem including loss of productivity, poor decision making, unpunctuality, absenteeism and other major problems which may include hostility and being a danger to other employees in the workplace.

Recently we attended the meeting at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) at their Regional Office at Camp Bago Dangwa, La Trinidad, Benguet. PDEA CAR Regional Director Edgar S. Apalla presided over the meeting with representatives from the City Government of Baguio, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Occupational Safety and Health Center – Regional Extension Unit (OSHC-REU-CAR), the Security Officers representing Hotels, Restaurants Association of Baguio, PDEA Baguio and others.

PDEA’s Oplan Kalasag is an advocacy promoting Drug-Free Workplace in hotels, restaurants, bars, subdivisions, condominiums, and warehouses because there are reports that there is proliferation of illegal drugs in these places and that drug syndicates and personalities find it best to conceal their nefarious activity inside these establishments.

The objective of Oplan Kalasag is to conduct intensive preventive education, information dissemination and capability enhancement for front liners and those whose duty is to secure hotels, bars, restaurants, subdivisions and condominiums as these establishments are susceptible to exploitation by drug syndicates.

On the other hand, DOLE in support to the anti-illegal drugs campaign for a drug-free Philippines, the agency has been monitoring establishments for the strict compliance of Department Order 53-03 or the guidelines for implementation of a drug-free workplace policies and programs for the private sector.

DO 53-03 calls for random drug testing of employees, applies to all establishments in the private sector, including their contractors and concessionaires. As mandated by the order, workplace policies and programs on drug abuse prevention and control adopted by companies must include advocacy, education and training; drug testing program for officers and employees; treatment, rehabilitation and referral; and monitoring and evaluation.

As required under DO 53-03, the employers also must conduct a random drug test on their employees and officials, and its schedule must be unannounced, with each employee having an equal chance of being selected for test. Random drug test in the workplace is legal. The goal is to discourage drug use by not telling anyone in advance when and who will be tested. You don’t have to worry if you don’t use drugs.

All drug tests shall employ the screening and confirmatory tests. When the confirmatory test turns positive, the company’s assessment team shall evaluate the results and determine the level of care and administrative interventions that can be extended to the concerned employee. Should the officer/employee turn out positive during drug test, it does not mean that the officer or employee shall be dismissed right away.

An officer/employee who, for the first time, found positive of drug use, shall be referred for treatment and/or rehabilitation in a Department of Health accredited center. Following rehabilitation, the company’s assessment team may recommend to the employer the resumption of the employee’s job if he/she poses no serious danger to his/her co-employees and/or the workplace.

The employee shall pay for the all costs of treatment and rehabilitation. The period during which the employee is under treatment or rehabilitation shall be considered as authorized leaves. However, repeated drug use, even after being given the opportunity for treatment and rehabilitation, shall be dealt with the corresponding penalties under RA 9165 and is a ground for dismissal. Violations of DO 53-03 may be punished criminally under Article II of RA 9165 and its implementing rules and regulations, or administratively under Article 297 of the Labor Code, as renumbered.

Always remember that drugs are chemicals that affect a person in such a way as to bring about physiological, emotional, or behavioral change. Employers are enjoined to display a billboard or streamer in conspicuous places in the workplace with standard message like “THIS IS A DRUG-FREE WORKPLACE; LET’S KEEP IT THIS WAY!” or such other messages of similar import.

For more information on workplace policies and programs on drug abuse prevention and control, visit www.dole.gov.ph www.oshc.dole.gov.ph and www.pdea.gov.ph.

END/Patrick T Rillorta