Drug Free Workplace – Is it Possible?

Drug Free Workplace: Is it Possible?

One in four workplace injuries arise out of drug or alcohol abuse. Operating with a drug free workplace has become a hot topic, particularly with the legalization of recreational marijuana in eleven states across the country. No matter the stance you take on the topic, the question we all want to know the answer to is “How will this impact my business?”

Depending on your company’s operations, you may be subject to different standards in regards to substance abuse. For example, if you travel across state lines, you are subject to Federal laws and regulations in which case there is a Zero Tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol. The same goes for any tree services falling under DOT regulations, as the DOT took its stance stating “Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, meaning all “safety sensitive” employees who are subject to federally-mandated drug testing are still prohibited from using the drug. This group of employees includes anyone who operates commercial vehicles, including train engineers, pilots and school bus drivers.”

When looking at the state regulations, tree care companies are in an entirely different situation. In Colorado for example, there is Amendment 64, which provides business owners with the choice to test employees and determine the consequences should those tests come back positive. Make sure to check with your state and verify its stance on the topic.

Although some states say implementing a drug free workplace is up to the employer, here are my three reasons you should have one.

Your Safety Culture – Creating a drug-free policy at work is fairly straightforward. The easiest way to approach it is making it synonymous to your alcohol policy. Just as it seems ridiculous to think of an employee operating a 23 ton grapple truck after consuming alcohol, we don’t want anyone operating while being under the influence of marijuana. In doing so, you exemplify the importance of your employees along with others who would potentially be at risk.

Insurance Availability & Discounts – We recently attended the Ohio Tree Care Conference and had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation regarding Ohio worker’s compensation. Ohio employers are eligible for up to 10% rebates on their worker’s compensation costs if they implement a drug-free safety program, the same goes for employers in Washington. Here in Wisconsin, we have seen insurance companies require a drug-free workplace program from insureds in order to renew their policies. Check with your insurance carrier to learn about possible discounts from implementing a drug-free workplace policy.

Productivity – A WCF insurance company study shows employees who have substance abuse issues are twice as likely to change employers three or more times in a year. The average cost to account for the lost productivity, new training, and risk of higher claims adds up to about $35,000 per year in expenses to the employer. Minimizing these expenses will have a direct impact on increasing your bottom line.

Employers have many resources that will assist in building a drug free workplace for example: Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers a free document on their website that will serve as a good starting point. To view the site (click here: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/policies/pages/cms_019908.aspx).

Personalize your program to your business’s location and operations, and have each employee sign off stating they have read and understand the policy.

If you are unsure of what guidelines your business may be subject to, contact our office as helping implement drug and alcohol policies is part of our Thrive program. Building and believing in this policy will help increase your bottom line and most importantly ensure that you are doing everything you can to make sure each employee gets home safe at night.

Written by: Malcolm Jeffris, CTSP