Maintaining a Drug-Free Workplace: Learn Your Risks and Exposures

Substance abuse in the workplace negatively affects every organization’s bottom-line through lost productivity, workplace accidents/injuries, workers’ compensation (WC) claims, employee absenteeism and more. Studies show that employees with a substance abuse disorder miss on average 34% more days than other workers, and are also more likely to experience a workplace injury. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), the impacts of substance abuse cost employers $81 billion annually.

Aside from the financial burdens associated with this issue, the NCADD warns that drug abuse can also cause additional serious problems in the workplace, including:

  • After-effects of substance use (withdrawal) affecting job performance.
  • Preoccupation with obtaining and using substances while at work, interfering with attention and concentration.
  • Illegal activities at work, including selling illegal drugs to other employees.
  • Psychological or stress-related effects due to drug use by a family member, friend or co-worker that affects another person’s job performance.

Creating a drug-free workplace requires careful planning. It is of the utmost importance to be proactive in order to ensure that you are building a drug-free environment for your staff. A cornerstone of such an initiative is often a substance abuse testing program. Consider the following recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) when creating and executing your efforts:

  • Determine the ultimate goal of your program and how it can benefit your organization and your employees.
  • Determine what drugs to test for. Commonly used drugs include alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and opioids.
  • Determine what type of testing you will use. Breath, saliva, urine and blood testing are most commonly used to test for drugs and alcohol.
  • Determine when to test for drugs and alcohol in the workplace. Testing should be included as a pivotal step in the pre-employment screening process, and should also be implemented after an accident or injury, after reasonable cause or suspicion, or done randomly.
  • Determine what testing procedures will be put into place:
    • Designate where employees need to go to provide specimens for testing. The site should be a suitable medical facility or testing unit.
    • Laboratories must be familiar with the minimum level at which substances can be detected in the body, as well as the quantity of drugs or alcohol in the system when screening urine specimens. This will enable them to determine whether a sample is positive or negative.
  • Determine how test results will be evaluated and discussed with the employee.

Once you have decided how you will create and implement your program, be sure to draft a detailed workplace policy outlining your drug testing program, along with specific procedures, rules and protocols. You should make sure all employees have access to this policy so that company expectations and procedures are clear.

Your drug-free workplace policy should meet your state’s regulations and should be specific to the work your technicians and other employees will be performing. Review WC and unemployment compensation disqualifications, and address prescription medication (including medical marijuana) disclosures under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Pest control businesses that battle the dangers of workplace substance abuse head on will only benefit long-term with healthier employees, heightened productivity, decreased absenteeism and less claims. An experienced insurance advisor can work with you on developing a plan that helps you meet your goals and reduces your exposure to risk.