I’m normally not one to knock the idea of two good things coming together that achieve a positive result. For example, what comes to mind when you think about a pencil and paper? How about hugs and kisses? Peanut butter and chocolate? Okay, that one was a cheap shot, I know. However, there are some things that don’t make me feel comfortable when they are together, like Politicians and my tax dollars. Drugs and the workplace make me feel uneasy when they get combined as well. It cost the company money and workers time because some random employee would rather spend their efforts “chasing a high”. Usually you just end up with lowered productivity and higher injury risks. Obviously those are a couple of reasons why employers want to keep drugs out of their workplace and who can blame them, right? Drug testing can be an effective way to do just that.
The popularity of workplace drug testing is on the rise, which is a good thing. Employers will drug (and sometimes alcohol) test potential new hires during the application process to weed out the users. In a recent survey, 58% percent admitted their organization conducted drug and/or alcohol screening. The number jumped up to 62% for those from organizations of more than 4,000 employees. A whopping 95% of those organizations conduct urine tests, 23% where to have said they conduct breath alcohol tests, roughly 9% tested by hair, around 8% tested by saliva, and about 6% performed blood testing. Again, this is a good thing!
On the flip side of that coin, there are still a lot of users currently employed. According to information provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 67.9% of all adult illegal drug users are employed full or part time, as are most binge and heavy alcohol users. Their study goes into greater detail when compared with non-substance users, claiming substance using employees are more likely to:
- Change jobs more frequently
- Be late to or absent from work more often
- Be less productive
- Be involved in a workplace accident and potentially harm others
- File a workers’ compensation claim.
In addition, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), drug abuse and addictions can cause big problems for business. Some of the issues can include:
- After-effects of substance use, such as withdrawal, can affect job performance.
- Preoccupation with obtaining and using substances while at work interferes with attention and concentration.
- Conducting illegal activities at work such as selling illegal drugs to other employees.
- Being distracted by psychological or stress-related effects caused from a family member, friend, or co-worker using drugs that affects another person’s job performance.
When it comes to job performance of an employee abusing drugs, some common problems that employers have noticed are:
- Inconsistent work quality
- Poor concentration and lack of focus
- Lowered productivity or erratic work patterns
- Unexplained disappearances from the jobsite
- Carelessness, mistakes, or errors in judgment
- Needless risk taking behavior
- Disregard for safety for self and others resulting in accidents, both on and off-the-job
- Extended lunch periods and early departures
Abuse behavior patterns are different, depending on what the addiction is. Like the old saying, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. Be that as it may, alcohol and drugs share some of the same symptoms, which include:
- Frequent financial problems
- Avoidance of friends and colleagues
- Blaming others for their own problems and shortcomings
- Complaining about problems at home
- Deterioration in personal appearance or personal hygiene
- Complaints, excuses, and time off for vaguely defined illnesses or family problems
As I’m sure you can tell, all that would add up to be costly, not only financially, but time consuming as well. The costs of the testing process include specimen collection, designing a program guide, implementation of policy, providing the results to specific parties, preparing special reports, organizing the data, and managing unexpected results. Not trying to scare you away, but that entire process takes a lot of valuable time just to come up with a reliable drug and alcohol policy, not counting the cost of keeping it going once it’s started. Just as an example, in Ohio it’s reported that employers pay an estimated cost of $7000 per employee annually with substance abuse problems. In other states, it could be more. Worldwide, overall costs add up to an estimated $81,000,000,000.00 annually, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). That includes actual time lost and employee performance.
Yet, there is some good news regarding the costs to the employer in terms that it may be mitigated by reduced worker’s compensation insurance premiums in some states when the involvement of a Medical Review Officer (MRO) is included in the drug testing program. Although the Department of Transportation (DOT) is required to have an MRO review every drug test they do, it is sometimes needed by employers to clarify some of their testing as well. Having a drug testing program that includes an MRO can result in at least a 5% premium reduction for workers compensation coverage. We advise that you contact your workers compensation insurance carrier for an application for a drug-free workplace premium credit.
Trying to measure a business’s efficiency can be somewhat difficult, but it is attendance, accidents, and employee turnover can be directly related to lowered productivity in the workplace overall. These issues can become a distraction for the company, taking away its range of capabilities on producing products, goods, or services. In a study published in the Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice, it is said that nearly one-fifth (about 19%) of the human resource professionals reported an increase in productivity after the implementation of a drug testing program. This, again, could be related to a more stable workforce and employee energy directed to specific job performance that could result in increased profits.
Testing for drugs of abuse is rapidly increasing in the area of pain management because the increased use to treat chronic pain is paralleled by increases in other drug use. The problem of prescription drug abuse and resulting overdose deaths was labeled an “epidemic” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accuracy is key when drug testing / impairment testing is being done in the workplace. Prescription drugs like hydrocodone and oxycodone can pose as another problem in the workplace. Drugs like these (legal with prescriptions) are commonly known to impair workers on the job. It is essential to formulate a specific plan prior to starting a drug testing policy in the workplace. We strongly encourage all employers to study all of their options carefully before deciding on what configurations and testing device to administer employee drug tests.
Drug testing is expanding across the board at a quick pace with intense competition while its technology has evolved. For many years, virtually all drug test samples were sent to laboratories with results returned days or even weeks later until Point-Of-Collection (POC) testing devices became more available and common place. It allowed detection of some drugs and their metabolites within minutes of collection. If you are thinking of starting a drug testing policy, perhaps it worth the phone call to speak with one of our friendly knowledgeable sales consultants at (888) 404-0020 during normal business hours, Monday through Friday 8am to 4pm CDT or feel free to send an email anytime. We also encourage everyone to visit our website to take advantage of the monthly specials along with any other offers we have currently going on.
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