Why We Drug-Test in the Workplace

Michael Davis - IWIRC Corp.

As I prepared to lead a manager’s training session on “Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing for Managers,” I was reviewing the latest trends regarding drug use in the workplace. Given that we just received the new OSHA rulings regarding drug testing, I thought it important to put into perspective the issue of drugs and alcohol in the workplace—and their extent.

To my surprise, little has changed. Alcohol and drug use are still as significant a problem in the workplace as they have been for years. Given that most of us are cost-conscious and have some level of accountability to our budgets, it is good to review why we do something for our company. As a human resource professional, manager or business owner, do you wonder why you perform pre-employment or post-accident drug testing, or invest in your Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? These statistics are still as valuable as ever for your company.

Please note: all of these statistics are readily available from numerous sources—just Google them. While one statistic might differ slightly from one source to another, the overall trends remain constant.

More than 70 percent of current, admitted drug users are employed, while 15 percent of the workforce (19.2 million workers) is under the influence of alcohol while at work.

Illicit drug use, by industry:

  • Construction: 15.6%
  • Sales personnel: 11.4%
  • Bartenders: 11.2%
  • Laborers: 10.6%
  • Machine operators: 10.5%.

Alcohol use, by occupation:

  • Construction workers: 15.7%
  • Machinists: 13.5%
  • Transportation workers: 13.1%
  • Repair workers: 13.1%
  • Food/beverage workers: 12.2%*

*Some studies put this group of employees as high as 19 percent.

If you are one of the 45 percent of employers that offer some type of EAP for its employees, remember that for every employer-invested dollar in an EAP, the employer realizes a savings of $7 to $20. The cost of an EAP ranges from $10 to $22 per employee. However, of those employees who have access to an EAP via their employer, less than two percent access it for alcohol or drug-related issues.

With few of the above statistics being affected by the implementation of an EAP, and the cost/benefit ratio being so high, why are employers not encouraging workers with dependency issues to seek care through an EAP? Is it not in the best financial interest of the company to improve the healthy behaviors of its employees? Certainly, this is an important question for the employer to consider when deciding how to best educate and implement an EAP for its employees. In today’s workforce, there is no doubt an ever-increasing pressure to meet tight budgets and goals. For many companies, evaluating workforce policies and programs for their cost-effectiveness is no doubt an ongoing process. Hopefully the information in this review will help with this assessment in your own workplace. iBi

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