Friday, November 14, 2008

Avoiding Workplace Substance Abuse

Fact: The US federal government estimates for the number of users of illict drugs (in 2005) to be 17.2 million.

Fact: Three quarters (74.8%) of them were employed.

Fact: Drug or alcohol impairment constitutes an avoidable workplace hazard. Programs for a drug-free workplace can improve worker safety, worker health, and add to a company's bottom line.

This is old news for most large companies. Nearly all companies employing 1,000 or more have come to understand the obvious benefits, both to themselves and to their employees, and implemented drug-free workplace policies and programs.

For companies employing fewer than 1,000 (the small and medium sized businesses SMB) the adoption rates of a drug-free workplace still lags substantially despite the benefits. Perhaps part of the reason some of the SMB's have not yet adopted a drug-free workplace policy is that they don't understand how to do it.

For guidance, we'll turn to an agency of the federal government that has more experience and expertise than any other. It has been their unhappy task to investigate the causes of worker injury and death for decades and they have amassed oceans of data regarding what are the causes and what are the effective preventions: the Occupational Safety & Health administration (OSHA) of the US Department of Labor.

OSHA identifies a comprehensive drug-free workforce approach as one having the following five components:

With respect to the last component (Drug Testing) there are many different forms of testing
  • Pre-Employment
  • Reasonable Suspicion
  • Post-Accident
  • Random
  • Periodic
  • Return-to-Duty
  • Other (follow-up, post-rehabilitation, voluntary, probationary, pre-promotion and return-after-illness)

Of all these forms, one stands out as superior (Pre-employment). The reason why Pre-Employment is so much better than the others is that its about avoidance rather reduction. It is far easier, less costly, less time consuming, etc. to avoid making a bad hire than to deal with the consequences resulting from a bad hire.

Here at Merchants, we offer the cost effective solutions to pre-employment screening. We can provide materials and services for the typical urinalysis (the most popular format). However, we think that there is an even better option for drug screening and that is the Tescor Survey.

Prospective employees can clean up their act for a week before urinalysis and successfully produce a negative scan on the urinalysis. But, that won't tell you what you really want to know (only tells you about the past week). The Tescor survey does a better job of discovering who does and who does not endanger themselves, their co-workers, and your company's bottom line.

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