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Bermuda’s Best Practice in Drug Free Workplace Initiatives

businesses, and pride in its rich heritage. Bermuda is distinct and unique from the rest of the world in so many ways, yet, like the vast majority of global civilizations it grapples with drug use amongst its people. How would you like to have a workplace


where 98 to 99 percent of your workforce is drug-free year aſter year? Tis article addresses a “big” success story in a “tiny” community. See below for how it’s been accom- plished. But first, some background:

Our Population Bermuda is a country of approximately 65,000 residents in 22 square miles, making it one of the most densely populated nations. It is simultaneously considered the oldest existing colony of the United Kingdom and, as newly relabeled, an overseas territory. Bermuda is also a village made up of

people from many other nations divided as Bermudian and non-Bermudian, mean- ing those with citizenship and those who are here as guest workers with immigra- tion work permits allowing them to work and live in Bermuda a few years at a time. Visitors landing here must have a return ticket at time of entry or they are not al- lowed to enter. Historically, Bermudans have referred to their country as “Bermuda Incorporated.” Bermudans manage macro and micro issues well given the size and controls in the country and maintain that “if it can’t be managed here, it can’t be man- aged anywhere!” Te above description is presented as a

brief contextual backdrop in order to share with the reader the feeling of shock and disbelief that, by the mid-1980s, drug use

14 datia focus

ermuda is pink beaches, pastel hous- es, lush gardens and golf courses. It bustles with tourists, international

was beginning to present itself to our litle Brigadoon . . . our Shangri-La. Until the mid-1970s, Bermuda had managed alcohol- ism in two distinct ways, divided between the “haves” and the “have-nots;” the middle and upper socioeconomic level went abroad for treatment or were treated personally via physician and Alcoholics Anonymous while the lower socioeconomic level of the popula- tion went in and out of psychiatric facilities as “revolving-door incurables.”

More Recent Times By the early 1980s, affluent cocaine use,

followed by crack as an equal opportunity drug-for-all, found its way to our shores from the East & West and more diverse substance problems began to rise dramati- cally. Health providers could continue to receive the fallout and treat those already impacted by drugs and/or alcohol, but there were no established governing poli- cies or entities to intercede or prevent the progression into abuse or addiction.

The Rise of EAP By 1985, Bermuda began establishing

Employee Assistance Services within its marketplace and its economy. For the first time, employers and business decision- makers were able to spring beyond the local Chamber of Commerce and other collective decision-making bodies like the Employers Council, various professional associations, and unions.

Global Factors With the spread of treatment success

stories and, therefore, a growing accep- tance that treatment works, a gradual shiſt from treatment-only to intervention and prevention techniques began to take hold. In the late 1980s, two events occurred in

different parts of the world which had an effect on the mindset of Bahamians around drug and alcohol abuse. Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson’s forfeit of his 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics gold medal followed by the Exxon Valdez’s March 1989 oil spill di- saster, with its captain with a blood alcohol level estimated to be above .20, Bahamians and the world became aware that action needed to be taken. In the mid-1990s, as the sports and work

worlds began creating new policies and testing methods, Bermuda started to be- come involved in drug screening. Tis was due in part to its connection with Olympic sports and its especially close connection with Canadian authorities mobilizing for Drug Free Sport aſter the Ben Johnson incident and ensuing shame. Likewise, the EAP field was catalytic in bringing about Drug Free Workplace initiatives. Te Exxon Valdez disaster punctuated what was already underway to address drug and alcohol use in the workplace. With the development of cost-effective

and reliable measuring devices, Bermuda’s drug free programs evolved rapidly both in sports and in the workplace. Initiatives were cleared via the Human Rights Com- mission as being nondiscriminatory and the Atorney General’s office agreed it was the right of the sporting body and em- ployers to expect their sports players and employees to be drug free.

A National Priority By 1997, all 28 of Bermuda’s National

Sports Governing Bodies were 100 percent on board for the national Drug Free Sports initiative and, by 1998, the Bermuda National Drug Commission sponsored all employer and labor stakeholders to create guidelines for voluntarily establishing

summer 2013

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