19 Aug WorkMed Drug Testing – Why Should You Screen Employees?
Employers have the responsibility of maintaining a safe workplace, both for their customers and employees. Depending on the industry, many different factors can contribute to workplace safety, such as proper training, security, and following work-specific safety standards. However, no matter what type of jobs come through a workplace, there is one safety concern that all employers should concern themselves with: drug testing.
Drug use and addiction are health hazards for any person, and they can create additional safety concerns in the workplace. Drug testing serves as a deterrent that employers can implement to help create a safe work environment. Work Med drug testing services offer a variety of tools for occupational healthcare, including drug screening.
The Risks of Drugs in the Workplace
Substance abuse of any kind comes with a host of health issues. Individuals experience muddled cognition, reduced reflexes, and potential withdrawal effects for those who suffer from addiction. All these complications can make it difficult to make rational decisions and stay safe, no matter where someone is.
However, drug abuse doesn’t just apply to those outside of the workforce. In fact, 70% of the estimated 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed. This poses a great risk for employers, fellow employees, and customers alike. Drugs in the workplace can lead to:
- Higher rates of workplace accidents leading to injury and death
- Higher rates of employee absenteeism/extra sick leave
- Loss of production rates/after-effects of substance abuse affecting job performance
- Theft to fund addiction
- Lower morale and employee cooperation
- Higher turnover rates and disciplinary procedures
- Other illegal activities, such as selling drugs to other employees
All these problems are concerning for employers, as are the rates of substance abuse involved in workplace accidents. In one hospital study, 35% of patients who came to the emergency department with an occupational injury were at-risk drinkers, while roughly 11% of victims of workplace fatalities had been drinking before their accidents.
Any industry can face risks by allowing drug and alcohol use into the workplace, but some have even higher risks associated with them:
- Mining and drilling
- Installation, maintenance, and repair
- Food service
In any of these workplaces, impaired judgment and reaction times can easily lead to accidents – which in turn can cause severe injuries and even death. Food service businesses also need to stay alert to these issues to avoid violations of health code and creating dangerous situations for customers who buy and consume their products.
With these worries in mind, it’s important for employers to stay vigilant and encourage drug- and alcohol-free workplaces. Drug testing is just one of the tools that can create that environment.
When to Conduct Drug Tests?
While it would serve any business to ensure that no one abuses drugs or alcohol while heading to the workplace, it’s simply not possible for employers to continually conduct drug tests on their employees. However, there are several scenarios that best are suited for drug testing, which can help create that drug-free environment:
- Pre-employment. One of the first steps to creating a drug-free workplace is not to hire those who use drugs in the first place. Pre-employment testing typically occurs after an employer makes a conditional offer for work. The potential employee must pass to get the job.
- Reasonable suspicion. If any employer notices that an employee is exhibiting symptoms of drug use, the employer can then request testing under the premise of reasonable suspicion. Management should have clear definitions of what constitutes as reasonable suspicion and undergo training to properly determine when this testing is necessary.
- Post-accident. As mentioned, many workplace accidents are the results of drug or alcohol use while on the job. After an accident, an employee may need to take a drug test to determine if substances were involved in the incident, though a positive test result does not always mean the influence of drugs was the cause of the accident.
- Random. Unannounced and unpredictable tests require randomly selected employees to complete drug tests. Since there is no telling when such a test may be required, this process serves as a deterrent for drug use after hiring.
- Periodic. Periodic testing helps determine that all employees are drug-free on a regular basis. Most often, employers will require annual testing that matches up with the need for a physical. The problem is that employees can prepare for these tests by stopping drug use for several days in advance.
- Return-to-duty. If an employee has an extended leave, such as for an injury or other reasons, an employer may request a return-to-duty test to ensure that the employee is still in compliance with company policy. These tests can also apply after an employee has gotten a positive drug test result and completed rehabilitation.
The type of testing used will depend on the employer’s goals and workplace requirements. Some states impose additional restrictions on what types of testing are legally allowed, so employers should familiarize themselves with what’s permissible before implementing a test type.
Benefits of Regular Testing
One of the most obvious benefits to drug testing in the workplace is the improved level of safety. While testing can’t prevent all instances of drug use, it can certainly discourage employees from abusing drugs and alcohol. With less impaired workers, businesses can keep employees and customers safe while maintaining an effective level of productivity.
Besides discouraging use, drug testing can also help employees who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction get the help they need. The establishment of an employee assistance program can help provide assessment, short-term counseling, and referral to additional services. Making these services confidential can encourage employee use and help resolve workplace issues before they spiral out of control.
Employers with successful support programs also benefit from increased productivity and morale, as well as decreases in absenteeism, downtime, theft, turnover, and accidents. Encouraging a company culture of safety and support is essential to maintaining productive and happy employees. Drug testing is just one method that employers can use to build such a culture and continually raise standards companywide.