Health & Safety Institute Blog

July 29, 2014

Workplace Drug Testing — Helping Stop Accidents Before They Happen

CommunicatingAwarenessAA048996Many people who have made it to the final stages of the job application process are familiar with pre-employment drug screening. Post-accident, random, return to duty, and reasonable suspicion are also reasons why an organization might drug test its employees. 

Why all the testing? To put it plainly, drugs and jobs just don’t mix. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) lists some job performance issues no employer wants to see at their sites:

  • Inconsistent work quality
  • Poor concentration and lack of focus
  • Lowered productivity or erratic work patterns
  • Increased absenteeism or on the job “presenteeism”
  • Unexplained disappearances from the jobsite
  • Carelessness, mistakes or errors in judgment
  • Needless risk taking
  • Disregard for safety for self and others- on the job and off the job accidents
  • Extended lunch periods and early departures

Now, you can imagine that bullet point about “disregard for safety” struck a nerve with us. As safety professionals, we do our best to create a workplace safety culture that gets everyone home safe after their shift. We try to control potential dangers and make sure everyone knows what they need to know to safely perform all their job duties. Adding impaired workers into the mix only makes matters so much more difficult for employers, co-workers, and the abusers themselves. A workplace testing program, and employees who understand the rationale behind it, can help alleviate many of these concerns.

NCAAD provides a downloadable fact sheet filled with stats that make the case for workplace testing:

  • Up to 40% of industrial fatalities and 47% of industrial injuries can be linked to alcohol consumption and alcoholism.
  • 21% of workers reported being injured or put in danger, having to re-do work or to cover for a co­worker, or needing to work harder or longer due to others' drinking.
  • Absenteeism among alcoholics or problem drinkers is 3.8 to 8.3 times greater than normal and up to 16 times greater among all employees with alcohol and other drug-related problems. Drug-using employees take three times as many sick benefits as other workers.  They are five times more likely to file a worker's compensation claim.
  • Shortfalls in productivity and employment among individuals with alcohol or  other drug-related problems cost the American economy $80.9 billion in 1992, of which $66.7 billion is attributed to alcohol and $14.2 billion to other drugs.

A 2011 poll by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in collaboration with and commissioned by the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA), offers these findings for consideration as well:

  • A fifth of organizations (19 percent) reported seeing an improvement in productivity.
  • Four percent of employers said they had high absenteeism rates (more than 15 percent) after implementing drug testing programs compared to 9 percent before beginning programs, a decrease of more than 50 percent.
  • Six percent of organizations saw workers’ compensation incidence rates of more than 6 percent after implementing programs compared to 14 percent before starting drug testing programs, a decrease of more than 50 percent.
  • For employers with drug testing programs, 16 percent reported a decrease in employee turnover rates, while 8 percent reported an increase, after the implementation of a drug testing program.

Although we do not provide the testing services themselves, Summit has a drug and alcohol testing awareness course to help your team understand why a drug-free workplace is in everyone’s best interest:

Drug Testing Awareness
Summit’s timely online program covers important topics such as testing and the ill effects of drugs and alcohol on an employee’s working ability. Employees who understand the consequences are more likely to resist using. Topics include:

• When testing needs to occur, including pre-employment, random, post accident, reasonable suspicion, return to duty, and follow-up testing

• Why testing for alcohol and other drugs is required for transportation workers

• Importance of maintaining a drug- and alcohol-free workplace

Available in Spanish.

Thank you for all you do to keep your workers safe. Let us know how we can help!

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