There is no shortage of reasons why employers should test job applicants and current employees for drugs. It can weed out those prone to having accidents, reduce workers compensation costs, minimize absenteeism, and improve the morale of existing employees by demonstrating the employer’s commitment to providing a safe workplace. Yet despite the mounting evidence that drug testing programs are a cost effective strategy to protect company assets, some business owners fail to see that substance abuse impacts the bottom line in more ways than one.
According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, 10.2% of full time employed adults and 11% of part-time working adults are substance dependent.* That represents a debilitating drain on business resources and productivity. Substance abusers use more sick days and show up late more often and stay in jobs shorter periods of time. They are three and a half times more likely to cause accidents at work and in transit and their health care costs are double of their peers. In the absence of a drug testing program to prevent the hiring of these individuals, an employer is likely to have more than their share of the working impaired, and all the costs that go with it.
Installing a drug free workplace policy is no longer the political hot potato we saw in the 1980’s. Respondents to a recent survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management indicated that 55% test for drugs at time of hire, 46% test randomly, 80% test for reasonable suspicion and 69% test post accident. No longer a legal battlefield for HR, drug free programs are now considered a best practice for hiring, risk reduction and performance management.
Despite the convincing business case for employers to implement a drug free workplace program, Safety Group Managers often wonder why some employers still worry about the employee privacy issues, the cost of drug testing, potential legal barriers or just want to “look away” from the problem of substance abuse.
Our experience it is lack of a basic understanding of the key elements of a program and employers don’t know where to start. Earlier this year, the New York Department of Labor addressed those concerns and provided clear and concise guidelines:
- The program informs employees of the dangers, to themselves and to others, of drug and alcohol use and abuse in the workplace.
- The program employs cost-effective, confidential, early intervention strategies to prevent alcohol and drug related accidents on the job
- It helps employees who have drug and alcohol problems that interfere with their ability to function on the job in a safe and effective manner.
- The employer must provide the plan to the designated employee representative(s) in each workplace location or to the recognized representative of each collective bargaining unit, where applicable, and to all employees upon request.
Even with the best possible programs in place, employers alone cannot solve the nation’s drug abuse problems. However, employers can implement effective prevention and detection strategies, employee assistance programs, disciplinary policies and treatment options where they will play a vital and meaningful role for their business and employees.
*Federal statistics 2007-2008