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Don't Hire an Accident!

A reminder of why workplace drug testing is so important.


photo Here is a fictional but typical scenario of the factors and costs involved when an employee has an accident caused while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

As you can see, the costs to the employer just keep snowballing.

It was a bad crash; the driver of the Smith Delivery truck sideswiped another car, causing the delivery truck to flip over on the highway. The road was shut down for 3 hours. The Smith Delivery truck driver suffered a broken arm and ribs. He was out of work for 8 weeks. The driver of the car suffered severe whiplash and back strain. The Smith Delivery Company's insurance carrier paid for the auto damage and medical care reimbursement ($18,000). The Smith Delivery truck was totaled ($40,000). The perishable cargo/food was destroyed (valued at $20,000). The restaurant that was waiting for the cargo delivery had to limit its menu, losing sales that day. The restaurant manager found another supplier the next day. Smith Delivery ended up losing a valuable ($200,000 per year) customer. Smith Delivery had to rent another delivery truck, hire a temporary driver, and the story goes on and on.

The cause of the vehicle accident, determined by a hospital toxicology test, was that the driver was "high" on crack cocaine. The driver, who had only worked for Smith Delivery for 5 weeks, had admitted to getting high while at work. Smith Delivery Company did not have a drug-testing policy in place. The workers' comp claim was denied and the driver was fired, but that was only one small victory for the Smith Delivery Company compared to the total impact of this accident on the company.

Pay now or pay later. For choosing not to implement a drug-testing policy and not conducting a $50 pre-employment drug test on the driver, the Smith Delivery Company is now "paying later."

The statistics from various industry and government sources are sobering:

  • 77% of illicit drug users are employed either full or part time.1
  • Substance abusing workers (drugs & alcohol) are 5 times more likely to file a workers' comp claim, and 3 times more likely to be involved in on-the job accidents. 2
  • It is also common knowledge that employees who abuse drugs and alcohol are more frequently late for work and absent from work more than non-substance abusing employees.
  • In Maryland for 2001, there were more than 37,000 drug arrests statewide. 3
  • Maryland now has 28 "Drug Courts" around the State just to handle the cases.
  • In Baltimore City, it is estimated that 60,000 residents have a drug addiction. That's 1 in 10 residents. 4

    Many of Maryland's substance abusers are looking for a job - are you hiring?

    Chesapeake Employers reminds all Maryland employers, especially small-and medium-size businesses, to start a drug-testing program today. It is so important for business owners to think about what could be their "Smith Delivery" catastrophe. The benefits to the success of your business and your bottom line are well worth the time and initial costs.

    Developing a Drug-free Workplace
    A comprehensive program includes these important elements:

    photo1. Develop a written substance abuse policy. It can be short and to the point, but it should specify where you stand on the issue of drug use, what you expect from your employees, and what you'll do if the policy is violated. All employees must sign the policy. Their signature ensures they understand and agree to abide by the rules of the policy. Chesapeake Employers can help you write your policy, or we can provide you with sample policies from others in your industry. Important: Before going "public" with your policy, it is advisable to consult with an attorney to make sure it conforms to all legal requirements.

    photo2. Post "This is a Drug-Free Workplace" posters and signs near thephoto entrance to your building/lobby or job applicant reception area. This can be your first line of defense against hiring a substance abuser. Publicize your drug testing/drug-free workplace in all your job/hiring advertisements and on your official job application. Need a poster or sign? Chesapeake Employers has created "We Conduct Drug-Testing" posters and desktop signs free for our policyholders. You can request these and other posters for free by e-mailing publications@ceiwc.com.

    photo3. Put in place a drug-testing program. You will need to make sure that your drug-testing program meets several requirements, including state and federal legal requirements, disability discrimination provisions, collective bargaining agreements, and any other requirements that may apply to your business or trade. Please consult with your company's Human Resources and Legal departments for information required to start your program. Know who you will test-applicants, employees, or both. Know when you will test-as a condition of employment, randomly, or after an accident. Know what drugs you want to test for. And, know how often you will test-weekly, monthly, or randomly. Choose a drug-testing laboratory certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (www.samhsa.gov) or the College of American Pathologists (CAP), Forensic Urine Drug Testing Program (www.cap.org).

    photo4. Educate supervisors on what to do if they notice substance abuse. Your supervisors have the most direct contact with workers, and they can detect performance problems that might indicate substance abuse. Supervisors should know the different types of drugs available and how to detect their use. They may be called upon to refer an employee to the company's Employee Assistance Program or to other local substance abuse resources. Be aware that supervisors are not responsible for diagnosing the reasons for a substance abuse problem, or for treating such problems.

    photo5. Set up an education and awareness program for employees. You must be sure your employees understand your commitment to a drug-free workplace. Whenever new workers are hired or rehired, they need to know about your company's program. Current employees need to have the policy reinforced as well. In addition to providing copies of your policy to all new hires, you may want to post your drug-free workplace policy for all to see. Additional methods of educating employees include showing videos and sharing printed material that discuss the negative health effects of alcohol and drug use. Chesapeake Employers can provide both videos as well as printed material to help you get the word out to your employees.

    photo6. Consider an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Each year, more and more companies offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) to help their employees deal with problems involving personal issues-including substance abuse. EAPs can help identify many problems and help resolve them by providing confidential, short-term counseling, referrals to specialists, and even follow-up services. The thinking behind this holds that employees can once again become productive and effective members of your workforce-if given the chance to recover.

    For more information and assistance in establishing a drug-free workplace program, contact the Chesapeake Employers Loss Control Department at
    410-494-2014 or go to www.ceiwc.com and click on "Loss Prevention Services."


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    By creating a drug-free workplace, you just might help turn around the life of a drug user who wants to "get clean," get a job, and get another chance at life.

    Additional informative websites:
    www.drugfreeworkplace.gov

    Endnotes/sources
    1 U.S. Department of Labor www.dol.gov/workingpartners
    2 National Institute on Drug Abuse www.nida.nih.gov/
    3 U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration www.usdoj.gov/dea
    4 Office of National Drug Control Policy State of Maryland/Profile of Drug Indicators
    www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/statelocal/index.html

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