HOW TO CREATE, TEST & ADMINISTER A DRUG POLICY FOR A SAFER OPERATION
By Clinton Burgess
Unlike some states, Texas holds no laws governing drug testing for private employers. In a 2013 survey, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources discovered that out of all Americans 12-years-old and older, 9.4 percent used illicit drugs within a month’s time span and approximately 70 percent of those individuals held employment. With more states passing the complete legalization of substances like recreational marijuana, companies are being encouraged to take action towards a safer workplace now more than ever before.
Not only damaging to a company’s reputation, credibility and productivity, drug use in the workplace has a significant impact on a business’s bottom line. Substance abuse is estimated to cost American employers approximately $81 billion a year and in an effort to reduce this figure, Texas CEOs need to work with their human resources management in order to create operational procedures for a drug free environment.
Developing a Drug Policy
Before a Texas employer can begin to establish a drug free workplace and start any form of testing, a company drug policy must first be developed and implemented. A clear set of procedural guidelines, a drug policy should state the points of interest governing the code of conduct, including:
- The purpose of the policy
- What substances are covered such as alcohol, illicit drugs, prescriptions
- Availability of any and all treatment programs
- Consequences of a violation
This should also outline what is considered a violation, which employees are covered, and how testing will be administered – whether randomly, during the pre-hiring process, post-accident, or for cause.
When developing the policy, it’s recommended to be as clear as possible and begin with positive language in order to showcase the importance of safety in the workplace – especially regarding quality. This will communicate a sense of diplomacy rather than maltreatment as the ultimate goal of a drug policy in creating a safer workplace. Furthermore, policies cannot simply be written up in an effort to test a particular employee. The HR department should be responsible for developing the guidelines with an attorney, as well as administering the notification of policy to all employees. Consent forms to be signed by every worker should also be disbursed – ensuring acknowledgement that employees’ test results can be shared with the company.
Developing a Testing Procedure
Once a drug policy is in place, drug testing procedures can be developed. There are a variety of tests to be conducted: pre-employment, post-accident, reasonable cause, rehabilitation, and random. It is entirely legal in Texas to test a selection of employees, but in an effort to maintain positive morale, productivity, and reduce the chances of legal action, companies are encouraged to be very careful about random testing. This procedure should apply to all workers to avoid any accusations of subjectivity or discrimination, but can be conducted more frequently for job categories that are inherently high risk or require the operation of machinery or power tools.
Even though it is up to the employer to decide, “for cause” testing should only be conducted under reasonable suspicion that an employee is violating the drug policy. Reasoning can include reports of unsafe, abnormal, or threatening behavior as well as obvious impairment. Testing an employee because of appearance, demeanor, education, race, age, or gender is highly discouraged because legal action can be taken against the company. Working with a human resources expert can help in determining an appropriate “for cause” drug test in order to avoid litigation.
Drug testing can consist of sampling urine, breath, blood or hair, and while each has its own level of effectiveness, they all must be conducted by a third-party and in private. Companies do not need to take the liberty of testing on their own and should make agreements with a credible drug-testing lab or doctor’s office beforehand. Documents such as test results, listings of tests performed, substances found and in what amounts, and who handled the samples should be shared between human resources and the lab regularly in order to avoid any legal action when terminating a worker due to policy violation.
Reaping the Benefits
According to the Department of Labor, drug free workplaces have resulted in a number of positive outcomes for a number major companies, some of which reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings due to a decrease in accidents, lower workers’ compensation claims and insurance premiums. The productivity gained from having a drug-free environment is worth the investment of a policy and procedures as less turnover, healthier workers and less use of health benefits are vital to a robust bottom line.
Texas CEOs stand to create a better business overall with proper operational procedures for a drug free workplace. Creating and implementing a well-communicated drug policy is the right move to make and managing it with trusted human resources management, either on-staff or outsourced, can ensure an optimal working environment all year long.
Clinton Burgess is the CEO of the Dallas office of Progressive Employer Management Company. For more information, please visit www.progressiveemployer.com