What Risk Managers Need to Know About Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs
Drug and Alcohol screening is one of the most common risk management weapons in the arsenal of tools to contain workers comp costs; the goal is to hire employees who are capable of performing the job they are hired to do and to prevent losses where you can.
Among the tools used are drug, alcohol and impairment testing that affect job performance. Medical evaluation programs often include such testing. Pre-employment screening of various types helps employers avoid hiring those who cannot safely perform the functions of the job. And, it also reduces costs because in twelve states, workers’ comp insurance premiums are discounted for companies with substance abuse policies and in 15 states presumption of intoxication and/or cause can avoid paying a claim.
In the workers’ comp risk management arena there are 4 types of drug and alcohol screening: pre-placement screening, reasonable suspicion or for cause, post accident testing and random testing.
There are several types of polices we recommend employers institute, among these is a Company Medical Policy or Substance Abuse Policy. Like all policies, the terms of the policy will need to be customized to comply with corporate culture considerations and with various state and federal laws. Both the Company Medical Policy and the Substance Abuse Policy can refer to drug and/or alcohol screening.
The policy should include what type of drugs the applicants or employees will be tested. Some model policy requires testing for marijuana and cocaine, but with the increased use of prescription drugs companies may also want to test of amphetamines, opiates and phencyclidine (PCP).
Consider the scope of testing, who will be tested. The prime candidates are safety-sensitive workers, such as those who drive or operate machinery on public roads, employees engaged in hazardous duty or those working with radioactive or explosive materials, medicines or firearms. Essentially, any employee whose job affects health and safety.
It is probably easiest to start a program with new hires rather than existing employees especially if a company does not have an existing program. All prospective employees who have been offered employment are required to take a drug test. If the individual’s test results are positive, he will not be considered for employment.
The policy should be communicated to all employees as part of an employee awareness and education program duty at the company. Some states require proof that each employee has been given a copy of the policy, so each employee should sign an acknowledgement that they have received the policy. Educating employees about the severity of the drug and alcohol problem is also important and in some states required.
The type of testing to be done will include considering state law, as well as the cost and facilities needed for testing. For example, hair sample testing is more discreet and easier to collect samples, but is not allowed in some states. It is also more expensive and provides results for a longer duration of time – time that did not affect work performance.
Consider why you want to have a drug testing program. For example, I had a company contact me to begin a drug testing program because they had a fork-lift driver who had repeat accidents, including running off a ramp and running into a warehouse support pole. I suggested that perhaps the accidents were due to eyesight problems, but because the employee wore Grateful Dead t-shirts, the assumption was he was using drugs. In fact, the issue turned out to be eye-sight related.
Disciplinary Guidelines: In most states, there are no limits on the type of discipline imposed. However there are six (6) states and Puerto Rico that limit the type of discipline that an employer may impose on employees who test positive.
Employee Assistance Programs: In some states like Maine and Vermont an employer wishing to conduct workplace drug or alcohol testing must have an EAP. Many other states offering benefits also require at least some form of local EAP resource file to be maintained. (workersxzcompxzkit)
Overall, while implementing a workplace drug and alcohol testing program may seem detailed, especially for multi-state employers, the benefits far outweigh these up-front details. It has been estimated that 38% to 50% of all work comp claims involve a drug or alcohol issue. This being the case, a well-designed drug and alcohol program can help combat this reality and return hard earned dollars to the bottom line.
For the drug test laws in your state visit http://www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/drug-testing-state-laws.php
Authors: William Judge and Rebecca Shafer William Judge, J.D. is an attorney who, for the past 24 years, has concentrated his practice on legal issues related to substance abuse in the workplace and in our nation’s schools. Mr. Judge provides risk management assessments, legal and consulting assistance and develops drug-testing policies for schools, employers and labor/management committees. He is the co-founder of the Center for Intoxication Defense Management, www.dtstatelaws.com that assists employers in defeating work comp claims when the worker was intoxicated. He can be reached at email@example.com or 708-334-8010.
Rebecca Shafer, J.D., President Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc., Ms. Shafer is a graduate of Franklin Pierce Law Center and is licensed to practice law in CT and NH. For 25 years, she has been helping employers reduce workers’ compensation costs. Recently she developed Workers Comp Kit, a web-based cost containment program and is the publisher of www.ReduceYourWorkersComp.com, a resource website for employers with workers’ compensation problems. She can be reached at RShaferB@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com
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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workman’s comp issues.
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