Drug and alcohol use and abuse are prevalent but preventable on the job-site. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health took a look into drug and alcohol users by industry. Their findings on full-time construction workers ages 18 to 64 were concerning:
- 11.6% are heavy drug users
- 16.5% are heavy alcohol users
- 14.3% have substance use disorder
Why should you monitor drug and alcohol use on your job-site?
A safe job-site should be everyone’s first priority. An intoxicated worker can create a dangerous work environment that results in injury and lost time on the job for not only the impaired worker but also others on the team. Implementing a drug-free workplace is important for both the progress and the safety of your business and the construction industry as a whole.
A drug-free workplace can also help you reduce costs. Maintaining a drug-free workplace is known to reduce the number of on-the-job injuries and workers’ compensation claims. In turn, this can lower the cost of workers’ compensation insurance premiums. Some states allow businesses to receive workers’ compensation insurance premium credits if they implement drug-free workplace programs.
Additionally, productivity increases as drug culture in the workplace decreases and more workers are educated on the topic. Awareness of and education about drug use in the workplace is important for the safety of everyone on the job-site.
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to eliminate and prevent drug and alcohol use on the job-site. Tina Hill, Director of Claims for Builders Mutual, explains programs, parameters, and practices for creating and maintaining a safe and drug-free workplace.
Everyone in your organization should be educated about the hazards of drug and alcohol abuse and the importance of implementing a drug-free workplace. Employers should provide educational opportunities not only for their employees but also for themselves. An employer who fails to follow their own regulations opens the door for liability and sets a poor example for workers.
Supervisor training should take place in upper-level roles. Supervisors should learn to recognize, report, and approach drug-related situations. They should be familiar with all policies and information about addiction and should be knowledgeable of the resources available to employees.
Educating workers about workplace drug and alcohol programs makes them aware of zero-tolerance rules and the help that is available. Information should be communicated frequently to the entire team. Employees may have access to employee assistance programs, known as EAPs, which provide resources for problem identification, assessment, and referral services. Businesses should always keep a readily accessible file of community resources, treatment resources, and helplines for employees who may be in need.
Your insurance company may offer policies for various education and rehabilitation programs for employers and employees. The National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance provides numerous resources and programs across the United States.
Individual businesses should create and implement their own alcohol and drug policies that are tailored to the specific needs and culture of the company. Parameters of the policies should include the reasons they are being implemented, the type of testing (if any) that is included, and the consequences of violation. The policies must also align with overarching guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as those of the workplaces’ specific states, should they apply.
Being knowledgeable about workers’ compensation coverage is important for both employers and employees. There are guidelines that must be followed to ensure your claims are approved, including drug testing. OSHA, state governments, and insurance companies all issue guidelines on drug testing.
- OSHA: OSHA recently changed its drug testing guidelines in order to better protect the health and safety of workers and prevent companies from using drug testing incorrectly. Check out OSHA’s 2016 revisions here.
- State governments: Each state provides its own parameters, which differ in practices and recommendations. Being aware of these guidelines can further educate and prepare you and your workers. You can view guidelines for states within the Builders Mutual footprint by visiting this website.
- Insurance companies: Builders Mutual provides post-accident drug testing guidelines, which can be accessed here.
While most workers’ compensation policies strongly suggest implementing pre-employment drug tests, there are a number of drug testing and education practices that employers can implement to ensure a safe and drug-free work environment after workers are hired. Many types of drug testing are effective in work environments, including random testing, reasonable suspicion, and post-accident drug tests.
- Random testing means that employees could be subject to a drug test at any time regardless of their behavior at work. This creates a zero-tolerance mentality.
- Reasonable suspicion testing allows an employer to take a worker out of his or her position to perform a drug test if the worker appears to be impaired on the job. With this type of testing, it is important that supervisors are trained and able to recognize whether an employee appears to be using drugs or alcohol.
- Post-accident testing: When an accident occurs on the job-site, a claim for workers’ compensation should be filed. It is important to understand that in order for a claim to be filed, a drug test must be completed within 24 hours, and the claim may be denied if the test returns positive. Post-accident drug testing also sends a message to employees that drug-related behavior is not tolerated.
Following an accident or admission to a substance abuse program, a worker can also be required to submit to a return-to-duty or follow-up drug test. These tests can further ensure a zero-tolerance policy and provide the employer with the security and knowledge that the worker is returning to the job-site drug-free.
While all workplaces run the risk of drug and alcohol abuse entering the work environment, education combined with these practices and programs can provide a direct message of a zero-tolerance mentality and push for a work culture that is safe and drug-free.