In the famous words of Yogi Berra, “it’s like déjà vu all over again” when it comes to a common workforce drug problem—marijuana. Marijuana was the first drug to lead to widespread drug testing in the workplace, and it has made a remarkable (and remarkably scary) comeback over the past few years. How can your business fight back?
The Drug-Free Workplaces Act was enacted in the late 80s after a tragic train crash, and the legislation requires all federal grantees to have drug-free workplaces in order to be eligible for contracts or grants from federal agencies. This act also started the first widespread employee drug testing. Over time, preemployment drug testing has grown so that about half of all private companies in the US utilize it.
Now, partially as a result of society’s willingness to legislate the availability of marijuana, there has been an explosion in positive drug test rates. The workforce drug problem can be seen clearly in the 2019 Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index analysis which showed the rate of positive tests hit a 14-year high in 2018.
Seeing those rates rise is alarming to those of us who understand the serious effects of a workforce drug problem. The National Safety Council states that employers experience both direct and indirect costs due to employee drug use, including a decrease in productivity, increased absenteeism and increased healthcare costs. Illegal substances can also contribute to an increase in workplace accidents, injuries and deaths. Your employees could be putting themselves, their coworkers and your customers at risk.
The Quest study also contains interesting industry-specific statistics that could affect your business. Positivity in six sectors experienced a four-year increase higher than the national increase, showing the severity of this workforce drug problem:
- Transportation/Warehousing 34.5%
- Other Services 33.3%
- Wholesale Trade 20%
- Retail Trade 14.9%
- Construction 13.2%
- Administrative Support/Waste Management and Remediation 12.1%
The most commonly found drug was marijuana. The marijuana positivity rates were dramatically increased in numerous public-facing sectors like mining (50%), construction (46.7%) and manufacturing (38.5%). The dangerous acceptance of marijuana creates an environment where there is an increased risk of accident or death.
When designing your pre-application materials, you must ensure that you show a direct link between testing for illicit substances and the tasks that employees have. We talk about that process in this previous blog post . Create clear substance abuse policies and educate your employees on the risks of substance use. Implement drug screening and require employees to follow your drug policy so that usage decreases. Does your policy reduce use or not? We are here to help.
James P. Randisi, President of Randisi & Associates, Inc., has since 1999 been helping employers protect their clients, workforce and reputation through implementation of employment screening and drug testing programs. This post does not constitute legal advice. Randisi & Associates, Inc. is not a law firm. Always contact competent employment legal counsel. Mr. Randisi can be contacted by phone at 410.494.0232 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or the website at randisiandassociates.com.