Substance abuse is common among working adults and the associated risks can be high for employers. Employees who abuse drugs have been shown to have lower job performance, decreased productivity, greater absenteeism, higher healthcare costs and workers’ compensation costs.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, employees who abuse drugs, when compared to their nonsubstance-abusing co-workers, are 2.5 times more likely to be absent for eight or more days; 3.6 times more likely to be involved in an accident at work; and five times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Be Proactive: Creating a Drug-free Workplace
Employers interested in taking a proactive approach to substance abuse in the workplace can do so by implementing a comprehensive drug-free workplace program and should consider the following:
- Establish a written policy that clearly outlines expectations regarding drug and alcohol use. This policy should include training for supervisors and management staff in “reasonable suspicion” and establishing a protocol for dealing with an employee that is showing visible signs of impairment.The written policy should also include education for employees about the dangers of drug use and information on an Employee Assistance Program that can provide counseling to employees struggling with substance abuse. Legal counsel should review this policy before it is shared with employees.
- Know the state’s drug and alcohol testing laws where the testing will occur. Certain types of testing (e.g., post-accident/incident) may not be permitted in some states.
- Determine the types of drug and alcohol testing to implement, such as:
- Pre-Employment: Pre-employment testing is performed as part of the hiring process to prevent hiring individuals who use illegal drugs.
- Reasonable Suspicion: Reasonable suspicion testing is conducted when supervisors document observable signs and symptoms of suspected drug use as outlined in the written policy.
- Post-Accident/Incident/Near Miss: Post-accident/incident/near-miss testing is conducted following accidents, incidents or near misses to determine whether drugs and/or alcohol were a factor. Examples of criteria that warrant a post-accident test are fatalities, injuries that require medical care, and damage to property. The criteria should be clearly outlined in the written policy.
- Random: Random testing is conducted on an unannounced, irregular basis on employees who are arbitrarily selected through a computer program to ensure the choices are random. This type of test is a deterrent because there is no advance notice.
- Periodic: Periodic testing is performed on a regular basis, but is generally not as effective because employees can prepare for them.
- Return-to-Duty: Return-to-duty testing is conducted when an employee who previously failed a drug test has completed the required substance abuse treatment and is ready to return to work.
- Know the type of tests (urine, hair, saliva, blood) to be conducted and the reason for their selection.
- If using a Third-Party Administrator (TPA) to assist with implementation, the TPA will:
- Help select and set up the collection facilities, train collectors and make sure all collections are performed per applicable law
- Help select the illicit drugs to be tested for, such as a 5 panel, which tests for amphetamines, THC, cocaine, opiates and phencyclidine, a 7 panel, a 10 panel, etc.
- Establish the chain of custody for all drug testing
- Package and send all lab-based or “inconclusive” initial drug tests, if using an instant testing methodology, to a certified laboratory for analysis
- The TPA should provide the Medical Review Officer (MRO)
- The TPA should maintain records of drug and alcohol testing
Philadelphia, PA, 19102