Atlanta authorities believe alcohol played a role in the fatal crash of a city garbage truck. The driver, who is seriously injured and still hospitalized, is now facing a slew of criminal charges for the death of his passenger.
But the city may soon find itself in legal hot water, too. A former public works employee alleges that supervisors were made aware of on-the-job alcohol issues but didn't do anything about it, reports Atlanta's WSB-TV.
The tragic story highlights the need for employers to proactively address substance abuse issues by having comprehensive substance abuse policies in place. Employers who fail to do so can be liable for their employee's acts.
Writing a Substance Abuse Policy
Employers should have a clearly written substance abuse policy that breaks down their zero tolerance policies on behind-the-wheel drug use and alcohol abuse.
In your written policy, be sure to include the following:
- Why you are implementing a policy (e.g., employees' safety and/or to comply with state or federal regulations);
- How you identify violations (e.g. testing);
- What substance abuse-related behaviors are prohibited; and
- What consequences employees may face for violations of the policy (including termination, if applicable).
Taking Additional Steps.
A written policy is a good start to limiting an employer's legal liability for injuries and accidents resulting from an employee's substance abuse. But there are a number of additional steps employers can take to prevent substance abuse in the workplace, including:
- Training supervisors. Ensure supervisors understand the company policy and know the protocol for referring an employee who is suspected of workplace substance abuse.
- Educating employees. Through training sessions, educate your employees on company policy, potential consequences, substance abuse resources, and safety concerns.
- Providing employee assistance. An employee assistance program (EAP) is a job-based program intended to assist workers whose job performance is being negatively affected by personal problems, including substance abuse.
- Drug and alcohol testing. State and federal regulations require workers in certain professions, including commercial truck drivers, to submit to random drug testing during employment.
Remember, when your commercial driver gets behind the wheel and injures someone, you may also get haled into court. Taking proactive steps is essential to limiting your liability. For more information, you may want to consult a personal injury lawyer.
- Police: Alcohol a factor in fatal garbage truck crash (Atlanta's WAGA-TV)
- An Employer's Liability for Employee's Acts (FindLaw)
- Woman Pleads Guilty in Crash That Killed Atlanta Officer (FindLaw's Atlanta Injury News Blog)
- Fire Truck Crash Injures Decatur Man, Lawsuit May Follow (FindLaw's Atlanta Injury News Blog)