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Risk Management Bulletin


By April 1, 2010No Comments

$100,000,000,000 a year.

That’s how much the federal government estimates that drug and alcohol abuse costs American businesses. Nearly three in four adult abusers are employed some of them perhaps by you. You might know these people by their absentee records: They’re likely to be gone at 2.5 times the rate of the average employee – or perhaps by their Workers Comp claims: Three to five times those of non-abusers.

You’ll also know them by how much they cost your health plan: 300% higher than nonabusers (not to mention the far greater human costs to co-workers, families and the abusers themselves).

Despite the war on drugs, there’s no overall federal drug-free workplace law for the private sector. Although a few states require drug-free workplaces, others take the voluntary approach. For example, some 13 states reduce Workers Comp premiums for businesses with a drug-free workplace program.

If you create such a program, observe these guidelines:

  • Create a policy. Expressly ban illegal drugs and abuse of alcohol; specifically state which drugs and related acts are prohibited; explain the steps you’ll take to back these edicts; and detail the consequences for their violation.
  • Develop a testing program. Decide whom to test, when to test (e.g. pre-employment, random, regular, reasonable suspicion, incident-related), who will do the test (preferably a certified independent lab, with at least two tests showing positive), and what will happen after a positive finding.
  • Decide what to with abusers. Although some organizations discipline or terminate, others see abusers as valued employees with a problem, who are well worth saving. Many businesses set up Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to deal with drug and alcohol issues off site. Establishing an EAP shows respect for your employees and offers an alternative to dismissal.
  • Define the role of your supervisors. Supervisors will probably be the first to notice the signs of abuse. They need tutoring on what to look for, and how to document and deal with it. Make sure that they do NOT attempt to diagnose what are essentially medical issues, or to counsel abusers. Their role is to report behavior and support what experts decide are appropriate responses to individual situations.
  • Communicate to employees the details of your program, the effects of abuse, and the importance of understanding the problem and reacting in a supportive way.

For more information, feel free to get in touch with our risk management specialists.