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.
Before we begin discussing your drug-free workplace program, let’s explore why it’s so important in a little more depth.
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.
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.
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.
There are two primary components of any drug-free workplace program: drug testing and education. Let’s tackle them separately.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.