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Employee Drug Screens

Employee drug testing is done to help ensure safety and productivity within a drug free work environment. It is used to detect illegal substance use and can also detect alcohol abuse. It is estimated that 70% of the nations illicit drug users are employed either full or part time and that one in twelve employees use on a regular basis. Employee drug tests are a valuable tool for employers to help create and maintain a drug free workplace and to encourage the type of work environment needed for heightened productivity. There are various types of employee drug testing that include the use of urine, hair, oral fluids, breath, sweat and blood.

Employers that can effectively manage employee drug screens and pre-employment drug tests have a competitive financial edge over other employers that do not test. The U.S. Department of Labor states that companies in United States lose between $75 and $100 billion per year due to illicit drug and alcohol use. This is due to money lost from missed work time, on the job accidents and workers compensation benefits. Employees using substances also use 16 times as many health care benefits. This makes employees that use drugs a much higher risk and more expensive cost than those employees that do not use.

The five commonly abused substances looked for in standard employee drug test include amphetamines, marijuana, cocaine, opiates and PCP. Amphetamine and cocaine abuse are linked to aggression and violent behavior, which cannot be tolerated in the work environment. Crack cocaine is linked to violent behavior even more so and can also cause delusions and paranoia. PCP will cause severe hallucinations and changes in rational thinking that can severely affect on the job performance and safety. Marijuana can severely inhibit employee productivity and has been proven to cause much slower reaction times, which is also a major safety issue.

Types of Employment Testing

Employee drug screens are an added expense but can actually save the company money in the long run by avoiding the expense risks of an employee with a substance abuse problem. Employers can actually save thousands of dollars per year with a well-developed employment drug test program in place. It can help avoid hiring someone with risky behavior patterns and can also identify employees with substance abuse problems early on so that appropriate treatment can be received.

A pre-employment drug test can be used prior to being hired. It can also be used as a condition of hiring, in which the employee is given the job on the condition that he or she successfully pass the employee drug test. This will ensure you are not spending money hiring an employee with substance abuse issues and all related company costs can be avoided. Pre-employment testing should include a statement of the drug test requirement to the potential employee upfront. Consent also needs to be obtained prior to testing and involves signing a document of agreement.

The U.S. Department of Labor found that 65% of on the job accidents are caused by employee drug or alcohol use. Employees using are also six times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim. This makes post-accident testing a valuable option for positions in which safety can be severely compromised. It can also be used with reasonable suspicion of use that becomes evident on the job in which there is concern of on the job safety. Employees can be terminated or temporarily suspended due to a positive drug test. When employees are suspended for positive drug and alcohol screens, they should pass a type of pre-employment screening before returning to their work duties.

Random tests are another affective way to deter drug use among employees and catch users prior to possible accidents and other related issues that will cost the company financially. It is also useful at catching drug users, as they are unable to prepare ahead for the test. Random employee testing is done with a computer generated system or a lottery system that picks the employees to undergo the drug screen. This can be done once a week, bi-weekly or monthly depending on your company’s preference, size and individual needs. Be sure to check all legal guidelines regarding random employee drug tests before implementing them as some states have restrictions on how this can be done.

Creating an Employee Testing Program

Employers starting an employee drug-testing program will need to decide how and when their tests will be administered. This often depends on the type of working environment as to which works best for the employer. Then all policies and procedures must be put into place following all legal guidelines. This includes policies and procedures for how and when testing will be performed, collected and analyzed as well as the procedure that will be followed upon receipt of positive test results.

If you are looking into setting up an employee drug test policy within the workplace, you will need a medical review officer to ensure legal compliance and the legality of results. Most businesses that provide and process employee drug tests will also provide you a Medical Review Officer (MRO) to oversee the program, which is required by law and will also give you any legal advice needed. These places will often provide collection services to you either on-site or will provide you with off-site drop-off. They can also provide and administer tests that can produce immediate results if needed.

Many companies also offer a full range of services to companies and employers that include developing and implementing employee drug testing and training employees regarding the new policies. They will provide tests for use and also services for collection and testing and can even be on hand to administer tests for immediate results. Often they can continue to aid you legally to ensure the system you set up remains in legal compliance of all federal, state and local guidelines. Employment drug tests can prove to be a highly beneficial tool within the working environment.

Establishing a Drug Free Work Environment

Along with employee drug testing, the best results are achieved with a full, comprehensive drug free workplace program. Many states offer discounted rates for workers compensation for companies with certified drug free workplace programs that meet their criteria. A drug free workplace policy should be established complete with a company mission statement and the reasons it is in affect. It should also outline all prohibited behaviors and their consequences in easily understandable detail. All employees should be aware of all avenues of the program in affect. A complete program will also include supervisor training, employee education, and employee assistance and referral.

Supervisors need to be trained to understand the policy and to recognize potential problems in their employees. They should also fully understand how to correctly enforce drug policies and when to refer employees for testing or assistance programs. Employee education should involve not only company procedure but also additional information regarding drug and alcohol abuse and addiction and its impact in the workplace. They should fully understand the company’s stand on substance use and know their full cooperation is expected. Education on the drug free workplace program and on drug use should be ongoing and can include workplace displays, seminars and home mailings. Seminars and education sessions should be a requirement for all employees, including supervisors and managers.

There should also be an employee assistance program in place to help those that need support for substance abuse issues. This is a great additional benefit for employees and their families and offers an alternative to terminating employees that can benefit from such services. This shows respect and appreciation for employees and can successfully create a more productive work environment. A fully comprehensive drug free workplace program can effectively foster further productivity and employee morale while at the same time greatly reducing company expenses.