The statistics about drug abuse are frightening. The American Council for Drug Education reports that American drug users consume 60 percent of the world’s illegal drugs. Millions abuse heroin, cocaine, and alcohol. Most frightening for employers is the fact that more than 50 percent of drug users are employed. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 12.9 million individuals use drugs in the workplace.
Importance of Workplace Drug Testing
This makes drug testing an important safety issue for employers and employees alike, to lessen or eliminate the impact of drug use in the workplace. Tardiness, absenteeism, turnover, theft, decreased productivity, crime, and violence are the consequences of unmanaged workplace drug use. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, workplace drug use costs up to $100 billion annually for lost productivity, accidents, and medical and workers compensation. With 65 percent of all workplace accidents related to drugs or alcohol, the importance of drug testing as a risk management tool can’t be underestimated.
Workplace Drug Testing Programs
The Substance Abuse and Mental health Service Administration reports that more than 50 percent of large businesses have mandatory drug testing programs. Workplace drug programs create a safer work environment for employers and employees, improve morale and productivity, and have a positive effect on the bottom line.
The most effective workplace drug testing programs include procedures for testing, prevention, and disciplinary actions surrounding drug use at work and enforcement of a no-tolerance policy. Clear definitions of illegal drugs, consequences of positive test results, assistance for employees with drug problems, and staff and supervisor training are all required for the best results.
How is Drug Testing Implemented?
The most common drug screening procedure is urinalysis, done at a collection site where a urine sample is obtained to be sent for lab testing. Negative results can usually be received within 24 hours but positive results require lab confirmation. Most employers use a five-panel test for marijuana (THC), cocaine, PCP, opiates such as codeine and morphine and amphetamines including methamphetamine.
Drug screening is done for different reasons, including pre-employment testing to avoid hiring individuals who use illegal drugs, when there’s reasonable suspicion that an employee is under the influence of drugs at work, post-accident drug testing to determine if an accident was caused by an employee under the influence of drugs, and random drug testing to detect employees who use drugs at work or come to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Most drugs stay in the user’s system for two to four days, so it’s important to drug test within a specific period of time so the candidate can’t prepare or plan to alter the test sample. If a candidate does not pass drug test screening, a medical review officer examines the results to make a determination. How drug test results are handled should be documented in policies and procedures.
Benefits of Workplace Drug Testing
The National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance reports that employers have a choice of different drug free workplace policies, including zero tolerance or second chance policies, either terminating employees for any positive test results or giving them a second chance to get treatment to keep their jobs.
The benefits of workplace drug testing are reported by agencies like the Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice. Their report shows that employee drug testing improves productivity and attendance and decrease worker’s compensation and turnover.
Human resources professionals report a five percent drop in absenteeism, an eight percent drop in worker’s compensation incidences, and one fifth of companies studied experienced increased employee productivity after implementing a drug testing program.
A drug-free workplace program creates a healthier, safer, and more productive workplace. Employers can protect their businesses by educating employees about dangers and costs of alcohol and drug abuse and encouraging those with related problems to get help.
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