Your Drug-Free Workplace Program: Enhancing Safety for All

team discussing about creating a drug free program
Mordechai Kamenetsky
Last Updated: 
July 3, 2023

According to the National Safety Council, 9% of working American adults have a substance use disorder, ranging from alcohol to illicit drugs. The US Department of Labor highlights that 65% of accidents in the workplace somehow involve drug and alcohol abuse. 

Each year, drug and alcohol-related accidents cost employers billions of dollars. Those costs come in several forms, including missed work and workers’ compensation claims

Thankfully, business owners can do several things to make their workplaces safer and reduce their workers’ comp premiums. One of the most effective steps is to create a drug-free workplace policy and program.

Why Go Drug and Alcohol-Free?

Why Go Drug and Alcohol-Free?

Before we begin discussing your drug-free workplace program, let’s explore why it’s so important in a little more depth.

  • Of all the illegal drug users in the US, 71% are employed.
  • Drug and alcohol-related accidents cost over $100 billion per year.
  • Drug/alcohol-related problems are one of the primary reasons for workplace violence.
  • Employees testing positive for drug tests are much more likely to be involved in workplace accidents than those who test negative. For instance, employees of Utah Power & Light who tested positive were five times more likely to be injured in a workplace accident.
  • Employees with substance abuse problems are more likely to miss work. For instance, employees at GM who used drugs averaged 40 days of sick leave every year. In contrast, non-drug users averaged 4.5 days.
  • According to Wisconsin’s government analysis, substance abuse-related expenses and losses totaled up to 25% of each affected worker’s salary.

On the other hand, instituting a drug-free workplace program can dramatically reduce absenteeism, as well as employee problems with supervisors. It also decreases mistakes in work and on-the-job injuries. You may also qualify for a workers’ comp drug and alcohol-free credit.

About the Drug-Free Workplace Credit

About the Drug-Free Workplace Credit

Currently, several states mandate that insurers offer businesses that have created and implemented drug/alcohol policies a reduction in premiums or a drug-free premium credit. 

The states offering a workers’ comp drug and alcohol-free credit include Arizona, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington. 

What’s involved in creating a Drug-Free Workplace Program?

What’s involved in creating a Drug-Free Workplace Program?

While creating a drug and alcohol-free workplace program can yield major savings on your workers’ comp premiums and help keep your employees safer, you’ll need to follow some specific steps. You can use the following information as a drug-free workplace program template to guide the creation of your own program.

It’s all about Drug Testing and Education

It’s all about Drug Testing and Education

There are two primary components of any drug-free workplace program: drug testing and education. Let’s tackle them separately.

Drug Testing

Drug Testing

Drug testing is the primary way to determine if an employee is using illegal drugs or alcohol. It’s important that you test applicants before hiring them – and that they know they will be tested. 

It’s also important that you conduct ongoing tests. At a bare minimum, you should have two types of tests – pre-employment testing and reasonable suspicion testing.

While pre-employment testing is self-explanatory, reasonable suspicion testing requires something of an explanation. Essentially, you would test an employee for drug and/or alcohol use if there was a reasonable suspicion of use, which could include:

  • Smelling alcohol or drugs like marijuana on the employee
  • Being informed by another employee that they were using drugs or alcohol
  • The employee exhibiting any signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech

In addition to pre-employment testing and reasonable suspicion testing, you may choose to add other types of testing to the mix. In some cases, the law may require this. For instance, if your business requires DOT compliance. 

  • Random Drug Testing – In this situation, you test employees for drugs and alcohol on a random basis.
  • Return-to-Duty Testing – Return-to-duty testing is important before an employee injured in a workplace accident or who was on leave due to drugs or alcohol is allowed to return to work.
  • Follow-Up Testing – If an employee tests positive, follow-up testing is important to rule out potential false positives. 
  • Post-Accident Testing – Employees involved in workplace accidents should be tested for drug or alcohol use immediately afterward.
employee having a drug test

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to crafting your drug-free workplace program. You will need to consider several factors regarding drug and alcohol testing, including:

  • Your State Laws – Each state has different laws governing drug and alcohol testing for various industries. Your policy must at least meet these minimum requirements.
  • Your Industry – Some industries have drug and alcohol policies that far exceed federal and state-level guidelines. If you are part of one of these industries, your policy will need to measure up.
  • Your Preferences – In some cases, employers have a great deal of latitude and can choose the combination of testing methods that works for them.
Beyond Drug Testing: Creating your Policy

Beyond Drug Testing: Creating your Policy

Once you’ve decided on the drug testing frequency and situations you want to follow, it’s time to draft your drug and alcohol policy. This is the foundation of your drug-free workplace program but is not the same thing. Instead, these are the policies that inform the program – it’s part of the program, but only one of several.

Your drug and alcohol policy should state several things, including:

  • The purpose of the policy
  • What your policy covers
  • When the policy applies
  • A list of prohibited behaviors
  • Whether your policy includes searches of lockers
  • Whether your program includes drug testing and, if so, what type and on what grounds
  • A full list of consequences of failing a drug and alcohol test
  • Whether you offer return-to-work agreements after failed tests
  • Whether you assist employees in finding addiction treatment programs
  • How your policies will be enforced and by whom
  • How you will communicate the policy to your employees
Informing and Training Managers

Informing and Training Managers

Your managers must be informed of your drug and alcohol policy and program. This process may not be lengthy, but it should give your managers and supervisors all the information necessary to understand, follow, and administer the policy and program. 

They should also understand their responsibilities in implementing the policy, how to recognize employees who may be struggling with drug or alcohol problems, and how to deal with employees about those problems.

Employee Training

Employee Training

It’s not enough to train your managers. You must also train your employees. Ideally, this should be included in all new hire onboarding, as well as all refresher compliance training. 

Employee training is an important part of deterring drug and alcohol use. After all, if your employees don’t know that you strictly prohibit the use of drugs or alcohol on the job, or the dangers such use presents, they may not avoid it. 

At a minimum, your employee training should cover:

  • Your policy regarding drug and alcohol use
  • Your policy regarding drug and alcohol testing
  • Your policy regarding positive test results
  • The effect of drug and alcohol use on the workplace
  • The effects of drug and alcohol use on individuals
Decide on an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Decide on an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Employees are vital to the success of your business. And even those with drug and alcohol addiction problems can become loyal, productive parts of the business once more if given the chance. 

An employee assistance program (EAP) provides that assistance by identifying personal problems early on and then helping the employee work toward a successful resolution, including addiction/recovery treatment programs.

Require Testing 

Require Testing 

The final step in any drug-free workplace program is to set things in motion. Once everyone has been trained, it’s time to begin drug and alcohol testing. The most common method is urine testing, but others also exist, including blood, saliva, and hair testing. Note that not all testing methods work for all needs. 

For instance, urine testing is good for drugs, but not for alcohol. Breath testing is good for alcohol, but not for drugs. Blood testing is good for drugs but is not always practical and is definitely invasive. Hair testing does not detect alcohol but gives you the longest detection window for drugs. Saliva testing can detect both drugs and alcohol, but there is a short window. 

Typical 10-panel drug testing isolates for amphetamines, THC, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, methaqualone, methadone, and propoxyphene. However, it’s possible to test for other substances, including MDMA, hallucinogens, and even inhalants like paint or glue.

You will need to partner with a trusted laboratory to handle the testing process itself, as well. 

The right Workers’ Comp for a Drug-Free Workplace

The right Workers’ Comp for a Drug-Free Workplace

Creating a drug-free workplace program is not enough. You will also need to find the right workers’ compensation program. While many insurers offer workers’ comp policies, not all do, and those that do may not be willing to offer coverage for your organization based on their underwriting guidelines. 

At Kickstand Insurance, we can help you find affordable workers’ comp insurance and find out more about the eligibility for a workers’ comp drug and alcohol-free credit.

Ultimately, drugs and alcohol have no place on the job. They put all employees at risk and cost businesses billions of dollars every single year. Creating a drug-free workplace program is the key to safeguarding your business, protecting your employees, and creating a brighter future for everyone.

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Note: The information provided in this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional legal or insurance advice. Laws and regulations regarding workers' compensation insurance are complex and vary by state and by specific circumstances. Therefore, readers are encouraged to consult with a qualified legal or insurance professional to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem they might have.

Mordechai Kamenetsky

Mordechai Kamenetsky, co-founder and lead agent of Kickstand, is recognized as an expert in workers' compensation. He is passionate about helping small businesses manage risks and lower their workers' comp costs. In his articles, he educates readers and clients on the intricacies of workers' comp insurance.

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