Every employer in our country has the responsibility of maintaining a workplace where their employees can perform any required duties with minimal risk every day. It's an employer’s duty to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for all employees at all times. Establishing a drug and alcohol testing policy and screening program is a vital component to ensure that your valued employees are free of any potential danger arising from injuries or accidents due to alcohol and drug misuse in the workplace.
The Value of Screening
For as long as there has been drug screening in the U.S. workplaces there have been those asking if it’s worth it. Without getting too philosophical, each employer needs to decide what “it” is. What does the company expect from a drug and alcohol screening program? Some goals to consider are:
These are all legitimate and valuable goals of any workplace drug screening program. When done correctly, the privacy concerns of employees, the accuracy of the test methods used, and the return on your investment can be recognized.
A few of the more immediate benefits of drug testing and having a drug-free workplace program in place for your company are:
Employees in drug-free environments have greater confidence that their workplaces are safe — like the construction contractor whose personal safety depends on his fellow workers being alert and focused at all times.
Employees in drug-free environments are reassured that their workplaces are productive, such as the high-tech worker who knows he won’t miss an important deadline because he’s covering for a colleague whose output lags due to drug abuse.
Employees in drug-free workplaces appreciate that their employers' policies make them more secure. Consider the electronics store sales associate who doesn’t worry that the cash register she shares will be short at the end of the day because a coworker steals to support a drug habit.
Employees in drug-free workplaces feel an enhanced sense of well-being, like the accountant who worked hard to achieve recovery and finds that his supportive work environment plays an essential role in his continued sobriety and success.
Employees in drug-free workplaces are pleased to be part of a team that gets the job done and enjoy the benefits of higher morale. Picture the nurse who arrives for work each day with the knowledge that the level of patient care won’t suffer due to a coworker’s abuse of alcohol or other drugs.
Employees in drug-free environments take comfort in knowing that their workplace is health. Look at the restaurant server who knows his health won’t be compromised because he has to work a double shift to cover for a colleague who regularly calls in sick due to a hangover.
Drug testing and having a drug-free workplace program will also help you:
To achieve your company’s drug prevention goals, you must have a complete, compliant and balanced program.
A comprehensive screening program should have the following components:
(1) a clear and comprehensive policy & related procedures;
(2) secure collection;
(3) chain-of-custody procedures;
(4) retained positive samples;
(5) an initial screening test;
(6) a sophisticated confirmatory test;
(7) a medical review officer;
(8) a retest of retained positive samples in disputed cases; and
(9) a system of quality control.
Employers often perform drug and alcohol screening in the following instances:
The foundation of any employee drug testing program is a combination of the company’s policy and its implemented procedures. The policy must consider the who, what, where, when, and how of testing along with the consequences of any violation of the policy. Carefully consider,
Who will be tested? Will you test all applicants and employees? Do you have employees whose functions are regulated by a federal or state agency? Are there state laws that specify who you may test? Are any of your employees represented by a collective bargaining agent (Union)?
What substances will you test? Will you conduct the industry standard 5-panel or a 10-panel, or others? Do state laws impact what substances you can screen? IS there a specific safety concern for those that may use prescribed drugs?
Where will testing be conducted? Will you use a certified laboratory, conduct testing on-site, or both? Are there rules in the state(s) that you operate in that mandate how testing is conducted?
When will testing be required? Perhaps the most important consideration is when you will require employees to submit to a test. Will you test all those applying for a job? Will you include reasonable suspicion, post-accident or random testing? Are there state laws that prohibit you from screening in specific situations? Each of these test events has significant issues that should be carefully considered before finalizing your decisions.
How will testing be conducted? This issue involves a consideration of the most appropriate test method for your company. Will you test using urine, blood, oral fluid (saliva), or hair? Which test method is permitted in your state(s)? Are you allowed to use an on-site or instant test screening (POCT) device?
Consequences: What discipline will you impose if someone violates your company’s policy? Will you offer an opportunity for treatment? Are there any state limitations on the actions you wish to impose?
All of the above may all seem like it’s too much to deal with and not worth the effort. But consider the realities of the statistics we have already discussed, can you risk being the workplace in your area that potential employees know does not drug test?
Also consider that the apparent complexities of establishing and maintaining your company’s drug testing program, related procedures and employee handbooks is your blueprint for protection! If you build a compliant screening program, your goals can be achieved.
Types of Drug Screening Programs
Determining what rules apply to your workplace policy and screening program will depend on how your company is regulated. Does your business conduct activities that are regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT)? Does your company operate under a federal grant? Does your company operate is a state(s) that have mandatory or voluntary drug screening rules or court & agency decisions?
Department of Transportation (DOT) Policy Manuals and Programs
If your business operates within the modes regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT), there are stringent guidelines that you must comply with. Not only does the DOT have its requirements, but you must also consider the laws and rules of the mode-specific agency.
US Drug Test Centers can help make sure you're compliant with all laws and regulations. Click below to learn more.
Non-Regulated Employment Drug & Alcohol Screening
In addition to federal laws, Employers must also be aware of any state-specific law that may impact their screening program. States are commonly categorized as Mandatory, Voluntary or Open States.
Many states across our country have enacted rules, whether by lawmaking or by court decision. If an employer wishes to conduct workplace drug and alcohol screening in these states, they must follow the state-specific rules and regulations.
Many other states offer incentives for employers should they wish to conduct workplace drug and alcohol testing and voluntarily comply with a state-specific set of rules. These incentives range from discounts on Workers’ Compensation Insurance Premiums, Defense to a Workers Compensation Claim and in defense of unemployment Benefit Claims. These benefits can prove very valuable to employer workplace screening programs.
Some states have no mandatory or voluntary workplace screening laws. While there may be no specific laws, it is still critically important in these states that your drug testing program has established a policy and procedures that help you navigate through a legally defensible drug testing program based on industry best practices.
Check your state laws to be sure you are compliant. Not complying with state laws for your drug-free workplace policy and drug testing program will create significant exposure to liability for your company.
The employer should also work closely with employees & managers to effectively create and manage awareness across the organization regarding the risks and responsibilities related to alcohol and drug misuse in the service. We can provide your company with resources for your employees to learn more about drug use and who to contact if they have a substance abuse problem. The overall aim is to ensure all individuals gain an awareness of drugs and alcohol as hazards in the workplace.
Written Workplace Policy/Compliance Manuals
When providing drug-free workplace policies for our clients, US Drug Test Centers goes above and beyond. For each policy, we create and build a complete compliance manual. This comprehensive binder will give you everything you need to manage a comprehensive drug-free workplace program.
For the non-DOT programs, the compliance manual includes comprehensive instructions, written custom policy, all forms needed, employee education materials, supervisor training materials, required forms, a copy of all current regulations, and if applicable, filing for State Discount on Workers Compensation premiums.
Alcohol and drug use among employees can be an expensive problem, with issues ranging from lost productivity, absenteeism, injuries, fatalities, theft, and low employee morale, to an increase in health care, legal liabilities, and workers' compensation costs. A written workplace policy needs to be developed in consultation with all levels of the company. An effective workplace policy is not generic; it should reï¬‚ect the speciï¬c group(s) and the requirements of your organization.
US Drug Test Centers believes that it's essential to create a policy that works best for your company. We understand that each company has specific employee rules and regulations while still complying with state-specific laws.
Save Money: Two Big Reasons to Have a Written Drug Testing Policy
Employers can and should take advantage of the financial rewards recognized by defending unemployment claims and by being able to raise appropriate defenses to workers’ compensation claims and reducing your workers’ compensation premiums in many states that offer such benefit. Many employers have seen significant value and reap the rewards of a compliant workplace screening program by being prepared to defend these claims properly.
Unemployment Insurance Claims
If you terminate an employee due to a positive drug test, the employee is likely to file an unemployment claim. This will cost you money. However, with a comprehensive drug-free workplace program and a written policy that is compliant with state law, you can potentially have the unemployment claim denied if the specific rules were followed in the states that offer this benefit.
When an employee is fired for testing positive or refusing to take a drug test, or when an employee quits rather than taking a test, you will argue that the discharge was for misconduct or that the quit was without good cause, both of which are grounds for denial of unemployment benefits. The written drug testing policy will back you up with your argument.
Workers’ Compensation Claims
Drug use causes accidents and leads to workers’ compensation claims, which can cost your business a lot of money. Some states have what is called a rebuttable presumption of intoxication defense, where if you have a comprehensive drug-free workplace policy and your employee tests positive after an accident, it's possible the workers’ compensation claim can be denied. If the employer can prove the employee was intoxicated or that they were impaired at the time of the accident, then the employer has cause to deny the claim for workers' compensation benefits, so long as they followed the state-specific rules in that states that offer such benefit.
As an example, in Oklahoma, the law states, “The following shall not constitute a compensable injury under the Workers’ Compensation Code: an injury which occurs when an employee’s use of illegal drugs or chemicals or alcohol is the major cause of the injury or accident; the employee shall prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the use of drugs, chemicals or alcohol was not the major cause of the injury or accident.”
Read More About DOT Drug-Free Workplace Policy Manuals
Contact US Drug Test Centers for All Your Drug Testing Needs
If you are a small business, you need to think about a comprehensive drug-free workplace program and policy. When it comes to workplace substance abuse, small companies have significant disadvantages. They are less likely to have programs in place to combat the problem, yet they are more likely to be the “employer of choice” for illicit drug users. Individuals who can’t adhere to a drug-free workplace policy seek employment at firms that don’t have one, and the cost of just one error caused by an impaired employee can devastate a small company.
There is a considerable return on investment for an employer to have a comprehensive drug-free workplace. Not having one is like not having fire insurance. It's a disaster waiting to happen.
US Drug Test Centers is available for expert assistance for the creation of your drug-free workplace policy. Our compliance manuals put your entire program at your fingertips.
Want more information about drug testing and how US Drug Test Centers can help you? We are your national expert on drug testing programs. Give us a call to schedule your no-obligation, free consultation on drug testing and creating a drug-free workplace, and learn how to keep your business drug-free. We are here to help you with any of your drug testing, MRO services, drug testing software, TPA software, non-DOT drug and alcohol programs, and drug-free workplace program needs. Call 866-566-0261 or e-mail [email protected].