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Answers to 5 FAQs Related to Establishing a Drug-Free Workplace

It is not uncommon for workplaces to deal with employees using illicit substances. Employee substance abuse is a problem that is beyond the abuser. Drug and alcohol abuse can easily lead to workplace accidents caused by negligence.

Research conducted by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. highlights that 70 percent of 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed. Further, dealing with problems related to employee drug abuse adds up to USD 81 billion every year.

With close to 10 million workers abusing drug, it is vital for companies to ensure that they have effective drug-testing procedures and policies in place. Asking an employee to take the drug test can be a sensitive issue and hence, companies need a transparent protocol before testing employees and new joinees. The policies must mention the type of tests to be used, their frequency and the consequences of a positive result.

Here are answers to the top five FAQs related to drug testing at the workplace:

1. Is It Legal to Conduct Drug Testing at Workplace?

Yes, drug testing is legal in the United States. In fact, testing at workplace helps companies ensure a safe work environment for the staff. Employees at most major companies need to take these tests, especially if they hold safety-sensitive positions.

Historically, the federal government under President Ronald Reagan’s administration implemented the Drug-Free Workplace Act in 1986 to fight against the drug epidemic. Signed in 1988, the Act was designed to protect employers against wrongful termination lawsuits from employees who lost their jobs due to illegal drug use.

As a majority of states started legalizing the use of marijuana, employers doing business there faced confusion over the norms. Even with the United States Department of Labor ending the Drug-Free Workplace Program in 2010, the Act still maintains zero tolerance policies for all federal grant recipients as well as federal contractors. In the private sector, it is the prerogative of individual companies to decide whether or not to conduct drug tests.
2. Why Should an Employer Establish a Comprehensive Drug-Free Workplace Program?

With the legalization of medical marijuana, drug use and abuse are on the rise. Employers who strive to preserve a drug-free environment in their offices need to think beyond increasing workplace drug testing. Establishing comprehensive drug-free workplace programs can help prevent employees from engaging in drug use.

Employees who use drugs or alcohol frequently are more likely to miss work or run late more often than non-users. Companies can deter such lapse in professionalism by establishing a drug-free workplace policy and holding workers accountable. By implementing an effective program, companies can contribute to the greater good by running a safe, healthy work environment.

Along with lower absenteeism, other benefits of implementing a drug-free workplace program include increased productivity, reduced workers’ compensation filings, and fewer accidents. As a result of these savings and cost reductions, the net profit of your business improves.
3. What Are the Key Components of a Drug-Free Workplace Program?

Traditionally, the purpose of a drug-free workplace program is to encourage employees with substance abuse problem to seek treatment, recover, and return to work.

Establishing a drug-free workplace requires the employer to take necessary steps and initiate policies to ensure that employees, vendors, and customers do not use alcohol or drugs, sell drugs, or are affected by the after-effects of these substances outside of the workplace.

Employers must ensure that the program educates employees about the health and safety risks related to drug and alcohol use. Also, the program should highlight the costs that will be borne by the company in tackling problems related to productivity and health problems.

To establish a drug-free environment, the employer must ensure that the program answers the following questions:

  • What is the purpose/goal of the drug-free workplace program?
  • Who will be covered by this policy?
  • What kind of behavior will be prohibited? What will the consequences be if the policy is violated?
  • Will employees be required to notify the company of drug-related convictions?
  • Will the drug tests include searches?
  • What types of drug testing will be a part of this program?
  • Will there be a return-to-work agreement?
  • What type of medical, financial, psychological assistance will be available to drug users?

4. Which Substances Are Checked for in Drug Tests?

Before employers decide to test job applicants and/or employees, they must also decide which drugs they will test for. Businesses conduct drug testing based on standardized procedures established by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The basic drug test kits by TestCountry can detect the presence of 6 to 10 drugs that are specified in the SAMHSA requirements. These substances include THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana), cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, PCP (phencyclidine), and ecstasy.
5. Who Needs to Be Tested?

As part of the corporate policy, the employer must explicitly mention the circumstances under which an employee can be asked to take the drug test. The policy must cover all employees, especially workers in risky job categories. For instance, all workers who operate hazardous machinery or drive vehicles at odd hours can be compulsorily subjected to drug testing, but this rule may not be applicable to the clerical staff.

Some of the stages when companies can conduct drug tests on employees are:

  • Pre-employment
  • Safety- or security-sensitive roles
  • Post-accident drug testing
  • During and post-rehabilitation
  • As part of the return-to-work process
  • Government-required or project-specific
  • Pre-promotion
  • Random testing
  • Client-requirement

To Sum Up

With drug use increasing rapidly, companies need to focus on initiating effective drug-free workplace programs to ensure the health and safety of employees. Additionally, alcohol and drug impairment can impact the overall well-being of a person, and subsequently hamper his/her productivity at work. A drug-free workplace will highlight the employer’s involvement in his/her staff’s good health.

(Source: Flickr)

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