Drug-free workplace programs speak volumes about health and safety

Drug-free workplace programs are considered by many to be an effective way for employers to demonstrate their commitment to health and safety.

These programs typically have five key components:

  • A written policy to establish the rationale for the program and explain how compliance will be achieved and enforced
  • Employee education
  • Supervisor training
  • Employee assistance program (EAP)
  • Drug and alcohol testing

Regarding number five, there is no need to be caught off guard. To learn more, view our recorded webinar where William Judge, Esq., addresses Marijuana, Opioids and Other Burning Issues in Workplace Drug Testing. An authority on drug testing laws, Bill will explain how state and federal regulations intersect and how employers can reduce risk and avoid litigious situations.

As employers with drug screening programs are discovering, prescription drug misuse is second only to marijuana as the nation’s most prevalent illicit drug problem. Estimates of the total overall costs of substance abuse in the United States, including lost productivity and health- and crime-related costs exceed $600 billion annually, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drug abuse alone is estimated to cost U.S. employers at least $276 billion a year. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that about 75 percent of adult illicit-drug users are employed.

Opponents of workplace drug testing often object on the grounds that it violates civil liberties. However, in most cases it is legal for employers to screen employees for drugs.

The Department of Labor advises employers to familiarize themselves with all of the state and federal laws that may apply to their organization before implementing a drug-free workplace testing program. For example, under certain circumstances, someone with a history of alcoholism or drug addiction may be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal non-discrimination statues. Some states restrict employers’ ability to randomly drug test employees who are not in safety-sensitive positions.

In addition to legal compliance and cost savings associated with accident and injury prevention, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) cites all sorts of other reasons for employers to support drug-free workplace programs:

  • Qualify for federal government contracts and grants
  • Obtain insurance discounts, rebates and other incentives
  • Respond effectively to an incident or pattern of substance abuse
  • Express support for the majority of employees who do not abuse alcohol or drugs
  • Leverage the drug-free workplace as a sales and marketing strategy

Given the five key components of a drug-free workplace program, there is a sixth one I’d like to point out – the inclusion of drug and alcohol abuse prevention and early intervention in workplace health promotion and wellness programs. This emerging trend suggests some employers are heeding the advice of experts who say it is more effective to adopt a compassionate, education-oriented approach than it is to use punitive measures when addressing substance abuse in the workplace.

By educating employees about alcohol and drug abuse and encouraging individuals with related problems to seek help, employers send a message that they care about the health and safety of their employees, customers and communities.

The National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices features well-researched drug-free workplace programs. Additional resources are available in SAMHSA’s drug-free workplace kit and the online Drug-Free Workplace Advisor.

Drug and alcohol testing is a critical component of workplace safety programs, and UL’s occupational health management solution assists with every step of the testing process, from random selection through reporting.