Employers Can Prevent Workplace Overdoses and Accidents

Drug abuse in the United States is on the rise. As per the data published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA), nearly 68.9% of people with drug problems in the country are employed either full or part-time. Therefore, regardless of the industry sector, an organization operates in, there is always a risk of some workers abusing illicit drugs. Today, no business organization can afford to ignore the dangers posed by employees who are under the influence of drugs while on the job. Workplace drug abuse can lead to fatal accidents, but a drug overdose can kill too. According to a study published by the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), workplace drug overdose fatalities in the United States rose at an annual rate of 24% from 2011 to 2016. Researchers relied upon the Census of Occupational Injuries Database.

The best way to eliminate the possibility of workplace drug overdoses and ensure the safety of employees, customers, and the general public, is to plan and implement an effective drug testing policy for your company.

Why Do Companies Conduct Drug Testing?

Various organizations across different sectors conduct drug testing in order to identify workers and potential hires with drug problems. Different drug testing methods such as urine tests, hair follicle tests, mouth swab tests, blood tests, etc. can help ascertain whether an individual has used illicit drugs in the recent past. A drug test can test for a variety of illegal and illicit substances depending on the type of illicit substances that an organization wants to detect.  This is often referred to as panels, such as a 5 panel, 10 panels, 12 panels etc.

How Can Workplace Drug Testing Help Prevent Drug Overdoses?

An increasingly large number of businesses and organizations are now conducting pre-employment, periodic, random, suspicion-based, and incident-based drug testing in the workplace. Each one of these drug testing strategies can assist in reducing the chance of workplace drug overdoses. Here is how each may help:

  • Pre-employment drug testing: It helps filter out candidates who are active users of illicit substances or have used drugs in the recent past. Your workforce is likely to have fewer people with drug problems if applicant drug testing becomes a part of your hiring process. Most drug addicts are less likely to apply for a vacant position when your company actively promotes the fact that it conducts applicant drug screening.
  • Periodic drug testing: Monthly, half-yearly, or yearly drug testing routine helps identify individuals who were not filtered out during applicant testing or started using illicit drugs after joining the workforce.
  • Random drug testing: A random set of employees is drug tested on a regular basis. While it will not necessarily identify all workers under the influence of drugs, it helps discourage workplace drug abuse.
  • Incident-based drug testing: When a company has the policy of drug testing workers injured or involved in an accident on the job, workers are far less likely to be casual about consuming drugs while on the job or before coming to work. Incident-based testing should have objective criteria and not be a blanket policy though.
  • Suspicion-based drug testing: Supervisors are trained on how to identify physical and behavioral signs of workplace drug abuse or impairment. A workplace overdose or accident can be preempted by identifying the problem of drug abuse early on with reasonable suspicion-based drug testing.

Most companies use a combination of two or more drug testing strategies to weed out or identify workers with drug problems. Besides having a comprehensive and compliant drug testing safety policy and a robust platform for managing drug testing, you may also need to invest time and effort in educating all employees on the perils of drug abuse or misuse.  In the long run, the benefits of workplace drug testing far outweigh the costs.

Is Drug Testing A Legal Requirement for Employers?

The laws concerning compulsory or optional workplace drug testing vary across the states. For instance, in the state of Hawaii, all employers are covered; applicant testing is authorized only when they receive advance notice, and employee testing is authorized if they receive advanced notice in writing and are given the opportunity to disclose if they are using any prescription or nonprescription medicines at that time. You can also drug test employees in medical marijuana states but you need to be aware of the rules for drug testing in medical marijuana states. In many states, employers are required to offer a ‘second-chance’ to employees who test positive on a drug test. In this case, employers may offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) referral to such workers to help them get out of the cycle of drug abuse.

Final Words

Employee or applicant drug testing is not conducted to discriminate against certain individuals. It is carried out in order to promote a safer and more productive work environment. Businesses should make sure their intent to implement organization-wide drug testing is seen as the safety program it is and is viewed in a positive light by employees. Workplace overdoses can endanger the lives of workers with drug problems, their co-workers and the public at large. Therefore, it is in the best interest of all stakeholders to identify and deal with workplace drug abuse early on.

Author Bio

Leon Reingold is the Editor-in-Chief at Drugtestsinbulk, a nationwide supplier of drug and alcohol testing products online.

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