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Risk Management Bulletin

Your Responsibility for an Employee’s Substance Abuse

By October 10, 2016No Comments

1610-rr-3Seventy-five percent of the nation’s alcoholics are employed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration. If your small business employees someone who abuses alcohol or drugs, your business’s safety, productivity and your bottom line are at risk.  For maximum protection, implement a zero-tolerance policy against drugs and alcohol and understand your responsibility for substance abuse.

Know the Law

According to federal law, only certain companies have to implement a zero-tolerance policy and test employees for substances. Those companies:

  • Have a federal contract or grant of more than $25,000
  • Are involved in any type of public or commercial transportation
  • Provide natural gas facility services
  • Work at railroads
  • Operate vehicles registered with the U.S. Coast Guard
  • Perform air traffic duties

Your small business may not meet these requirements, but you are still required to maintain a safe culture and environment in your business. If one of your employees is injured on the job, your business is responsible for the Workers’ Compensation claims. Likewise, if one of your employees injures someone else while he or she is working under the influence, your business will assume the liability.

Screen Employees  

Most substance abusers do not announce their problems. They also may gravitate toward small businesses that don’t have strict drug and alcohol policies or regular testing in place. Protect your business when you require all new employees to take a drug and alcohol test and agree to your written substance abuse policy.

Write a Substance Abuse Policy

Protect your employees and small business with a written substance abuse policy. It will:

  • Outline your zero-tolerance policy or other restrictions on substance use
  • Solidify any employment testing requirements
  • Share the consequences for positive drug or alcohol tests and subsequent use
  • Maintain confidentiality

Find more information about how to develop a legal and non-discriminatory alcohol and drug abuse policy from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Provide Treatment Options

Your small business is not required by law to provide treatment options for employees who suffer from substance abuse. Consider offering treatment options, though.

Join a consortium of other small business owners. Together, you can provide an employee assistance program (EAP) that offers short-term counseling and treatment referrals and assists you in retaining your quality employees.

You should also familiarize yourself with the substance abuse treatment options provided by your insurance company. Share the available resources with employees who are covered by the policy and have a substance abuse problem.

Alcohol and drug abuse can impact your small business in a very negative way. Create a plan to address your responsibility and reduce your risk.