As IWIRC Corp. acquires new client companies, we're often asked questions regarding drug and alcohol testing policies. More companies are seeing the benefits of these policies, but many don't know there are various protocols they can adopt to move toward a drug-free workplace.
For those who don't have a drug and alcohol testing policy, consider the following research findings:
- One in five workers reports that as a result of a fellow employee's drinking, they've had to work harder, redo work, or have been put in danger or injured.
- Current illicit drug users are more than twice as likely than non-users to have changed employers three or more times in the past year.
- One study found a doubled risk of serious injury on the job for those diagnosed with a substance abuse problem.
- Alcohol and drug users are far less productive, use three times as many sick days, are more likely to injure themselves or someone else, and are five times more likely to file workers' compensation claims.
There are several forms of substance use testing policies. The most common policies are post-offer, post-accident, random, and reasonable suspicion. Post-offer and post-accident are self-explanatory, and their justification is readily apparent in the aforementioned statistics. Random substance use testing is often required by legal entities, such as the Department of Trans-portation. Some companies also use a random policy to periodically test their workers. This is a logical policy; however, from our experience, there might be a better alternative.
Reasonable suspicion takes the randomness out of the equation. With this policy, the
employer is responsible for identifying employee behavior that's out of the ordinary and determining whether such behavior might be drug related.
At this point, you might be thinking, "What about lawsuits?" First, employers should have training if using this policy. Second, the criteria that determine what behavior constitutes "reasonable suspicion" are fairly broad. For instance, is an employee late for the third straight day without an excuse or violating well-known safety guidelines? Both might constitute reasonable suspicion. Remember, the decision to test is based on the suspicion of the employer-not the innocence or guilt of the worker. The drug test confirms if a policy violation has taken place.
Alcohol testing-also referred to as Breath Alcohol Testing (BAT) or Breath Alcohol Content (BAC)-may be a facet of any substance use policy. However, from our experience, we most often recommend the post-accident and reasonable suspicion policies. There are a couple of caveats to policies for BATs. First, many employers are setting post-offer BAT policies aside because of a lack of return on their investment. Second, most post-accident tests require that BAT be conducted within eight hours of the accident. The reasoning is the relatively rapid metabolism of alcohol by the human body.
Drug and alcohol testing can have a positive impact on all work environments. Whether screening potential employees, providing grounds for post-accident discipline, or simply deterring employees who might otherwise use illegal substances, enforcing these policies is an effective tool for any company. IBI