Just say no

Avoid workplace drug-abuse policy mistakes

Trump Taj Mahal. Caesar’s. TropWorld. What do these Atlantic City casinos have in common? No, it’s not the slot machines that promise million-dollar jackpots. It’s the fact that they all require prospective employees-from those in the executive offices to those on the casino floor-to take a drug test during the hiring process and submit to random testing after hiring. Applicants are educated about this written, management-enforced policy from the time they fill out an application through the training program. Thousands of workers willingly accept it as a condition of their employment.

They’re not the only ones. A study commissioned by the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace in Washington, D.C., and conducted by the Gallup Organization of Princeton, New Jersey, found that the majority of the 1,006 employees who responded to the study supported workplace drug testing. While only 38% felt that such testing was a necessity, the majority felt that employers have the right to test job applicants before hiring them, and current employees if they are suspected of drug use. Most also supported the use of random testing.

According to the Ohio Casualty Group, a property casualty insurance firm in Hamilton, Ohio, workplace drug abuse costs American companies more than $100 billion each year in lost productivity and higher healthcare and workers’ compensation costs. Thus, “drug-free workplace programs can make dramatic contributions to a company’s bottom line,” says Beth Lindamood, a workplace substance-abuse expert and senior analyst in the workers’ compensation division of Ohio Casualty. But only if the programs are implemented properly. “With such a strong need for effective drug-abuse programs in the workplace, and the vast amount of help available,” says Lindamood, “there’s really no excuse for developing and implementing halfhearted solutions.”

Unfortunately, it takes more than supportive employees to address substance abuse in the workplace. Following is a list of the top 10 mistakes Lindamood finds employers make in addressing workplace substance abuse.

Avoid these mistakes:

  1. Implementing a workplace drug-abuse program without the full support of top management.
  2. Starting a substance-abuse testing program before distributing a policy, educating employees about it and reviewing any applicable union agreements.
  3. Conducting drug testing without a written drug-free workplace policy.
  4. Failing to use a medical review officer in a testing program.
  5. Not testing management as well as staff.
  6. Using unaccredited laboratories to analyze samples.
  7. Not testing for adulterants.
  8. Not enforcing a workplace drug-abuse policy consistently.
  9. Sending “reasonable cause” cases to the testing site without providing transportation.
  10. Reporting the results of drug tests too widely within the firm.

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