Department of Labor reported that the abuse of drugs and alcohol in the workplace, cause 65 percent of accidents and 38 percent to 50 percent of the claims of all employees associated with alcohol or drug abuse in the workplace. Drug testing programs are a powerful deterrent to drug and alcohol use in the workplace and help employers reduce occupational injuries and illnesses and send a clear message about their commitment to a safe work environment.

Many employers will typically perform pre-employment screening for drugs before hiring, but often neglect other important elements of an effective drug free workplace policy or program such as random testing (where not prohibited by state law), reasonable suspicion, and post-accident testing.

Random drug testing is an effective deterrent to drug use by employees if implemented properly. Employers with no random testing may have issues with employees and fail to identify them until there is a major problem or accident; perhaps they never detect this employee’s drug or alcohol use and the impact it may be causing within the company. Employers not administering any drug testing or random drug testing, where allowed, are taking a risk of increased workplace accidents and other negative results of maintaining a substance abuser on the payroll.

While having a random testing program does not provide any guarantees but does increase the likelihood of identifying employees with substance abuse issues and may deter those with issues from applying in the first place.

One challenge we often see with companies that do random testing is that they announce the test ahead of time or give the employee days to get the test done. This completely defeats the purpose of having random testing as it gives the employee time to attempt to flush their system or to prepare to “cheat the test” or adulterate the specimen. Random testing should be done immediately meaning if an employee is chosen for a random test and they are in the middle of a project, out sick, on vacation, the supervisor should wait to tell them about the selection until they are ready to send the employee immediately. It is important to have a complete program in which all aspects of testing are addressed and implemented properly.

Education about drug and alcohol use and abuse it a critical part of an effective drug and alcohol-free workplace program and gives employees the information they need to get help when needed and maximize their benefit from a program. Active employee education plans should provide company-specific knowledge, such as the details of the company’s policy, as well as comprehensive knowledge of the nature of drug or alcohol addiction; its impact on work performance, health, and personal life. All employees should have ready access to this information and it should be available on an ongoing basis through a variety of delivery methods.

Random testing is not enough by itself; reasonable suspicion drug testing is also critical as is supervisor training. A manager or supervisor who has not had sound reasonable suspicion training may not be able to properly recognize and document specific behaviors, appearance, attitude changes, and more that would warrant a reasonable suspicion test. Many supervisors also confuse random and reasonable suspicion testing which could open your company up to legal issues and liability.

The laws vary, sometimes greatly, from state to state so it is essential to know what laws that affect your business or you can work with a TPA (Third Party Administrator) that can assist you in making the best decisions in regards to your Drug and Alcohol Testing Program and implementation.

Check out our blog for other great articles and information on topics like marijuana legalization, the intoxication defense to defend against a workers’ compensation claim, workers compensation premium discounts for a drug free workplace and much more.

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