How to Build a Workplace Drug and Subtance Abuse Policy

Per the US Department of Labors Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 74.8% of the illicit drug users are either employed full time or part time. As illicit drugs and alcohol can remain in a persons body for hours or even days after they are used, the person with a substance abuse problem can come to work still under the influence of the drugs or alcohol. Per OSHA, between 10% and 20% of the workers who are killed on the job test positive for drugs or alcohol.
A workplace substance abuse policy should be a part of every employers risk management program. The prevention of workplace substance abuse will protect the safety of all employees, and reduce the cost of workers compensation. (WCxKit) 
An overall approach to drug-free workplace should include five elements. They are:
1.      Employee education
2.      Supervisor training
3.      Drug testing
4.      Employee assistance
5.      A written substance abuse policy
A written workplace substance abuse policy should have a stated goal and purpose. The goal and purpose can be stated as “protecting the safety and health of the workplace” with recognition of drugs and alcohol as being a danger to all employees. 
The workplace substance abuse policy should clarify what employees are covered by the policy. To prevent the policy from being ignored, it should apply to all employees, including management. Otherwise, it will be seen as having different standards for 'the workers and 'the management'. The policy should clearly state when it is applicable – all hours on the job and when representing the company in anyway. 
The prohibited behavior needs to be clearly stated. The workplace substance abuse policy should state that it is a violation of the policy to use, sell, trade, posses, or to offer to sale illicit drugs, alcohol or any other intoxicants in the workplace. The prohibited behavior should also include being under the influence of illicit drugs, alcohol or any other intoxicants while in the workplace.
The workplace substance abuse policy must clearly state the employer has the right to search for substance that violate the policy. It should state that by entering the premise of the employer, all parties consent to searches and inspections. The right to search should be stated as applicable at any time and to include clothing, desk, lockers, wallets, purses, briefcases, lunchboxes, vehicles and equipment.
For the workplace substance abuse policy to be effective, it must contain a drug testing component. The drug testing portion of the substance abuse policy should outline how the testing will be administered and when the test can be given – pre-employment, random, post-accident, reasonable suspicion, periodic, etc. 
The drug testing portion of the substance abuse policy should state what the consequences are when an employee test positive for drugs whether it is suspension from work until the employee has completed a stated drug treatment program or termination of employment or other disciplinary action by the employer. For job applicants, the failure to pass the pre-employment drug testing should result in the job offer being withdrawn.  
Some employers encourage employees to voluntary seek assistance with their drug or alcohol problem. The workplace substance abuse policy can recognize there is treatment available for the addiction and that rehabilitation is possible. The policy can state the employer encourages the employee or family member with an addiction problem to seek the necessary assistance. 
The workplace substance abuse policy should advise that all information received by the employer is considered confidential information and will not be shared with anyone who does not have a legitimate need for the information. It should make the appropriate exceptions for medical care, law enforcement and management needs.
The policy needs to define the responsibilities of the both the employees and the employer in maintaining a drug-free workplace. This would include employees not reporting to work with any illicit drugs or alcohol in their system and management's responsibility to maintain a safe work place and protect the employees from any employee under the influence of illicit drugs or alcohol. 
Communication between the employees and the employer is essential for the workplace substance abuse policy to work. All employees should be provided a copy of the written policy. The policy should be reviewed in orientation with new employees and be incorporated into safety meetings. All employees should receive a copy of the substance abuse policy at least annually. Information on the availability of treatment for alcohol and drug addiction should be made available to everyone. (WCxKit)
 As many small businesses will not have the time to carefully write a workplace substance abuse policy, the U.S. Department of Labor provides a free Drug-Free Workplace Policy Builder at . At their website you go through a checklist of features you want in the workplace substance abuse policy for your company. When you finish the checklist, it has a neatly organized, simple but precise workplace substance abuse policy that you can print for use in your company. One of the options when using this interactive program to build your policy is to include a drug testing program; we strongly recommend you do so. By having a workplace substance abuse policy you will have a positive impact on your cost for workers' compensation.

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing.
Contact: or 860-553-6604.

Workers Comp Resource Center Newsletter

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

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