Construction Among Top Industries for Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Promoting Construction Safety through Substance Abuse Programs
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, construction workers have one of the highest rates of current illicit drug use among all industries at more than 15 percent. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health cited the construction and mining industries for having the highest rate of heavy alcohol use of full-time workers aged 18-64 with 16.5%.
Workers impaired by drugs or alcohol can cause serious damage to your business in the form of increased absenteeism, lower productivity, higher health care costs, higher workers’ compensation claims, and more on-the-job injuries and incidents. In order to maintain a safe and productive work environment, employers should take action to stop substance abuse. A cornerstone of such an initiative is often a substance abuse testing program.
Creating a Testing Program
If your construction company decides to implement a testing program, consider these recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
- Determine the ultimate goal of your program and how it can benefit your organization and employees
- Determine what drugs to test for (e.g. alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, prescription drugs, PCP, heroin and ecstasy)
- Determine what type of testing you’ll use (e.g. breath, saliva, urine, blood testing…etc.)
- Determine what testing procedures will be put into place
- Designate where employees need to go to provide specimens for testing; the site should be a suitable medical facility or testing unit
- If your facility is using a laboratory for testing, it must be certified by HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; there are approximately 30 certified laboratories in the United States.
- Determine when to test for drugs and alcohol in the workplace (e.g. pre-employment process, after an accident or injury, after reasonable cause or suspicion, randomly and/or as part of a follow-up to rehabilitation); everyone in the company should be tested equally, all the way up to top executives
- Determine how test results will be evaluated and discussed with the employee.
- After a positive test result, your medical review officer (MRO) or HR staff member should discuss the results with the employee. This is the time to determine why a false positive may be an issue
Once you’ve decided how to create and implement your program, be sure to draft a detailed policy outlining your drug testing program, along with specific procedures, rules and protocols. Give all employees access to this policy so that company expectations and procedures are clear.
Next Steps After a Positive Test Result
If an employee tests positive, it’s your decision how to handle it. You may choose to terminate the employee on the spot, give the employee a warning or suspension or offer the employee a chance to get help.
Though simply having a testing program can be a deterrent, research suggests that a more comprehensive approach can be beneficial. For instance, if you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), promote that program for employees as a resource to help with addiction. If an employee tests positive, consider referring him or her to the EAP or allowing a leave of absence to seek treatment. You may want to consider offering treatment as a one-time option, but terminating repeat offenders.
Regardless of your approach for dealing with a positive test result, make sure your policy expressly details the consequences and procedures following a positive test result. You should be clear and consistent with how you handle this situation in order to inform employees of your expectations and avoid potential lawsuits.
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