It should come as no surprise to hear that addiction in the workplace is a real issue in American companies today. A high percentage of people suffering from substance use disorders are gainfully employed and do not recognize that they have a problem. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that these disorders cost employers more than $740 billion annually in health care costs, lost productivity and crime.
For these reasons, many employers are looking for tips for designing and implementing a drug-free workplace program. What is involved? Why is it needed? How can both employers and employees benefit? Are there any downsides to implementing such a program?
Why Implement a Drug-Free Workplace?
Creating a drug-free workplace is important but not as a punitive measure. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence states that the issues driving implementation of a drug-free workplace is primarily safety and productivity-related. Substance misuse is an expensive problem that can open the door to legal issues for companies if employees are hurt on the job. It is not just a loss of productivity, but instead absences from work and lost efficiency, injuries, the risk of death and other factors. Workers compensation rates can increase along with health insurance premiums if even one incident occurs. Depending on the industry, the company may be required by law to enact a drug-free workplace policy. Once enacted, insurance premiums, including workers compensation, can be reduced.
So how can companies ensure the development of an effective drug-free workplace policy? Here are some tips that can get your company on the right track, courtesy of OHS Health & Safety Services:
- Establish a written drug-free workplace policy and share it with all employees
- Post “drug-free workplace” signs in the building to remind employees
- Share materials on substance use disorders and, if your company has an Employee Assistance Program, make sure employees know about this important resource
- Conduct pre-employment drug testing on each new hire and check state laws to determine the legalities of conducting these tests
- Add, “We are a drug-free workplace” in employment ads and share that you conduct drug testing
- Conduct random drug testing, where the law permits and when applicable and appropriate. For manufacturing or other labor-related businesses, conducting post-accident drug testing is an industry standard
- Arrange for awareness training on substance use disorders to help educate employees on the signs of this illness and how to seek treatment
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a free Drug-Free Workplace Toolkit for employers. It has information that could help companies to develop and implement policies, evaluate success and educate others on the importance of the effort.
A substance use disorder is a behavioral and physical condition that can be just as debilitating as cancer or any other illness. That is why Washington state addiction treatment resources often partner with employers to ensure that their employees receive proper medical attention to combat this disorder.