What Is A Drug Free Workplace? (Workplace Safety & Compliance)

Is your business operating drug free. Most business owners will say yes. But is this really true when over 20 % of American population is using illicit drugs. There is more to a drug free workplace then just drug testing. A comprehensive drug free workplace has 5 components of a written policy, employee education, supervisor training, access to employee assistance programs and drug/alcohol testing.

We recommend a comprehensive drug free workplace program for safety, productivity and to reduce liability. It is not a good idea to do drug testing without a written policy.

Take a minute and download our free report on creating a drug free workplace program.

Watch this video to learn more about:

In this video of the NDS Video Blog series, Joe Reilly discusses one of his favorite topics: drug free workplace. What is a drug free workplace? Why should I implement a comprehensive drug & alcohol screening policy. I already do drug testing, isn’t that all I need?

Joe dives into these questions and more in today’s video – talking all about what it takes to truly have a drug free workplace in 2022.

Welcome back to our video blog series. We got hundreds of videos on our YouTube channel, so please check them out. We’re going to talk today about one of my favorite topics specifically addressing employers throughout the United States. Here is the transcript of the video.

I’m Joe Reilly, President of National Drug Screening (NDS). I get the question a lot, ‘what is a drug-free workplace’. It’s one of my favorite topics to talk about in the drug testing world, going back to 1993 when I got started with drug and alcohol testing.

And if you ask a business owner, do you have a drug-free workplace? Well, 99% of the time they’re going to say yes. But often, employers don’t understand, ‘what is a drug-free workplace’. Often employers do drug testing, but they don’t necessarily have a drug-free workplace.

The concept of a drug-free workplace got started in the early 90s with the United States Department Of Labor and with the United States Department Of Health and Human Services, specifically SAMHSA the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, and states like Florida that implemented a program called a drug-free workplace program.

Drug Free Workplace – 5 Components

So, let’s talk about ‘what is a drug-free workplace. It’s more than drug testing. It’s a program that has five components. And I’m going to talk about those five components.

The first component of a drug-free workplace is a written policy. A written policy that talks about who, what, where when and how all of our drug testing program. Who gets tested, when do they get tested, how do they get tested, what happens if they test positive, and it’s all laid out in a written drug-free workplace policy.

And if you don’t have a policy and you’re doing drug testing, it could be a little dangerous because, what do you do when you have a positive? And are you consistent in how you deal with that? Are you testing, for what drugs? Are you using urine as your specimen? Oral fluid as your specimen? Hair? Are you using maybe a combination of all of those?

The policy is a tool to mitigate potential problems in your drug-free workplace and drug testing program. It can be your best defense if you’re sued. It’s often required in an unemployment hearing when you fire someone because they tested positive for drugs.
So, step one, the first component is the policy. It should be written. It should be distributed to all employees. They should sign a receipt that they got it and acknowledge it.

The second component is what we call employee education. So, we set up a drug testing program, we set up a drug-free workplace policy, we got to tell the employees about it. We got to explain it to them; why do we have it? And it’s a good idea to talk about the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol in the workplace.

Now, employee education can be a video, it could be a seminar, it could be a lunch and learn, it could be distribution of reading materials to cover the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol and to cover what our policy states and ‘what are the consequences’ if you don’t follow the policy.

The third component of the drug free workplace is what’s called supervisor training.

So, supervisors should go through the same employee education, they are employees, but they should also go through a supervisor training program for reasonable suspicion; making determinations based on signs and symptoms of probable drug or alcohol use that cause us, now, to do a reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol test. If the supervisors aren’t trained to do that, they probably won’t do it, and you have liability occurring in your workplace because you may have someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol working and they might hurt someone else or hurt themselves.

So, supervisor training is typically a two-hour program. It combines the harmful effects of drugs, the harmful effects of alcohol, the signs and symptoms of drug use, the signs and symptoms of alcohol use, documenting what you are observing, and then administering or taking someone for a reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol test.

Now, the next component is what we call Employee Assistance Program or a Substance Abuse Professional Program. It’s providing a helping hand to employees who might have an issue with drugs or alcohol. And it’s also the resource to send people to after they test positive.

Now going back to your policy, you determined upfront in your policy if someone tests positive, are you terminating them or are you giving them a second chance to get clean, maybe be referred to an employee assistance program or a substance abuse professional and come back to work on a second chance agreement, where if they test positive again, you are going to want to fire them. But many cases, and it’s legal to give a second chance, depends on your particular workforce, workplace, what type of jobs, what’s the mindset of your leadership. But you got to be consistent.

So, employee assistance programs are often part of a health insurance program. Many people don’t know that, so ask. If you have group health insurance, ask if in the mental health portion of that insurance is an employee assistance program, or EAP, provided.

For smaller companies that may not have group health insurance, at National Drug Screening, we put this comprehensive drug-free workplace program together for you and we include the policy, the employee education, access to the supervisor training, and we include employee assistance program resources that employees can tap into.

The fifth component of a drug-free workplace, the fifth and final component is the actual drug and alcohol testing.

When do you do Drug Testing?

So, when do you do drug testing? Typically, preemployment; before you hire them. You don’t want to hire a drug user. You hire a liability, you own the liability. So, you do preemployment drug testing, after you make an offer. You might do random drug testing; keeps people honest. It’s a deterrent to drug use. It’s required if you’re DOT-regulated. It’s optional if you’re non-DOT regulated.

So random testing might be one person a month, two people a quarter; whatever you decide. If you’re non-DOT, non-regulated, whatever you decide. And even if it’s one person a quarter, it’s a deterrent factor. It puts teeth into your drug-free workplace program.

So, we do preemployment, we do random, we do testing after an accident, and we may have a threshold on that accident if it’s going to require a workers’ comp claim, if it’s damaged your property over a certain amount of money, those things should be put in the policy. We do reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing based on a person that was potentially under the influence, observed by a supervisor; the super documented supervisor documented that reasonable suspicion.

You might do return-to-duty testing if someone comes back after a positive, after substance abuse counseling. And you might do follow-up testing of that particular person that came back, to keep, make sure they stay clean. That could be a year’s worth of follow-up testing or more. And sometimes employers that have a routine fitness-for-duty medical exam, maybe annually or every other year, sometimes they include a drug test in that routine fitness-for-duty exam.

Benefits of a Drug Free Workplace

So why drug testing and why implement a comprehensive drug-free workplace? It’s all about safety and it may be about compliance also. And it may save you money. So, what are the benefits of a drug-free workplace?

First off, increased productivity. People that don’t use drugs are going to be more productive than people that do.
Reduce turnover. We’ve seen that people that use illicit drugs have a tendency to quit, get fired, move along to other jobs.

That’s a tough situation to deal with high turnover.

Reduced tardiness; people come in late. That affects everybody. No one wants to be doing their work and their coworker’s late, and they have to jump in and step in for them.

Same thing, reduced absenteeism. They’re out from work a lot. The other workers have to jump in and pick up the slack.
It’s a safer work environment; less accidents, less workers’ comp claims.

Save you time on the hiring process. When we implement a drug-free workplace for you, we gave you a sign to put up and we tell you to put it in your ads on indeed or whatever service you’re using to hire people, ‘we drug test, we’re a drug free workplace’. People that use drugs won’t apply and it will save you time.

You might get a discount on workers’ comp. Ask your insurance agent.

Long-term, you’re going to have less utilization of your group health care. So, you can potentially save money where group health care costs aren’t going up quickly because a lot of utilization of healthcare benefits. People that use illicit drugs have a tendency to have to use healthcare.

And you may need the drug-free workplace because you’re required to have it by DOT or by some contractual relationship with a company that you do work for, or because your insurance company requires it.

Great benefits to implement a drug-free workplace program.

Now there’s about 13 states in this nation that offer a discount on workers’ comp insurance if you implement a comprehensive drug-free workplace program. And in all 13 of those states, they identify a drug-free workplace with the same five components that I’ve talked about.

So, if you’re going to start drug testing, you can call us and we can get you a drug test done, today. If you want to implement a full program, we can also do that; takes about five to seven days to get that full program implemented.

You can call us, the numbers on the screen. You can go to our website. There’s lots of information about drug-free workplace policy. Just put it in our search bar.

We also have a free report that you can access on our website on setting up a drug-free workplace. You can do it yourself, or we can do it for you with a turnkey program. But be safe. Be compliant. Call us to get a comprehensive drug-free workplace program.