Officials Urge Employers to Launch Programs to Mark Drug-Free Workweek
The U.S. Department of Labor is gearing up for Drug-Free Work Week by offering employers resources to bolster or launch programs aimed at preventing substance abuse in the workplace.
The annual event -- scheduled for Oct. 19-25 -- is a public awareness campaign that highlights the importance of implementing drug-free policies to ensure workplace safety. According to department officials, businesses pay a high price for alcohol and drug abuse. Research has found that approximately 75 percent of the nation's current illegal drug users are employed, with 3.1 percent saying that they have used illegal drugs before or during work hours. In addition, more than 7 percent say they have consumed alcohol during the workday. Statistics have shown that at least 65 percent of workplace accidents involve substance abuse, and as many as 20 percent of workers who die on the job test positive for alcohol or other drugs.
While some costs to employers are obvious, such as increased absences and workplace accidents, others are not. Low employee morale, presenteeism, and high illness rates are also potentially devastating consequences of employee substance abuse.
However, employers can protect their businesses and employees from workplace alcohol and drug abuse. Establishing policies, educating employees about the dangers of alcohol and drug use, deterring and detecting use, and urging people to seek help for substance abuse problems are effective strategies. According to the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, implementing a drug-free workplace program is essential. The bureau pointed to studies that show that substance abusers are three to four times more likely to have an accident on the job and five times more likely to file a workers' compensation claim. In addition to preventing costly accidents, drug-free workplace programs can also yield significant savings in other areas. For example, many states offer substantial discounts on workers' comp premiums for employers who have drug-free workplace programs in place.
Event activities. Labor Department officials encouraged businesses to:
- Implement new program or promote an existing initiative. Drug-Free Work Week is the perfect time to launch a substance abuse program. Such programs complement other initiatives aimed at protecting employees' safety and health. If your company already has a drug-free workplace program, this is a good time to ensure the program is adequate and meets your needs. Distribute a copy of your drug-free workplace policy, along with a positive message about valuing health and safety, to remind employees about the important role the program has in keeping them safe.
- Provide training to supervisors. Train supervisors to ensure they understand your organization's policy on alcohol and drug use, ways to deal with workers who have performance problems that may be related to substance abuse, and how to refer employees to available assistance programs.
- Educate your workforce. To achieve a drug-free workplace, it is critical to educate your employees about the nature of alcohol and drug use and its negative impact on workplace safety and productivity through training sessions, guest speakers, or brown-bag lunches.
- Remind employees about EAP services. If your company has an employee assistance program, remind them of its availability. These programs offer free, confidential services to help all employees resolve personal and workplace problems, such as substance abuse.
- Offer health screening services. Encourage your employees to assess their own use of alcohol and drugs and privately determine if they need help to change their behavior. For example, you can inform employees about the confidential, self-administered online screening tool AlcoholScreening.org.
- Publicize available community treatment resources. Whether you have an on-site EAP or health unit, help for substance abuse problems is likely available nearby through a hospital, local health department, or stand-alone substance abuse treatment center.
- Feature the event in your newsletter or on the Intranet. The Labor Department offers timely content for your employee newsletter or Intranet during Drug-Free Work Week.
- Distribute a payroll message. Include a leaflet or message in employees' paychecks listing sources of help for those with substance abuse problems or a simple reminder that it is Drug-Free Work Week.
Read more at the WORKERSCOMP ForumTM homepage.
September 16, 2009
Copyright 2009© LRP Publications