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IMA Human Resources Blog

Creating and Maintaining a Substance Abuse-free Workplace

by Dave Galbraith

Amerisure is an IMA B2B Partner…

The U.S. construction market is the second largest in the world, employing over 8 million workers with private construction, and spending over $687 billion. Considering the critical impact the construction market has on the economy, businesses, employers, employees and the general public; creating and maintaining a drug-free workplace makes good business sense.

Substance abuse in the construction industry negatively impacts contractors in several important areas:

  1. Efficiency (theft, job learning, production, rework, tardiness, absenteeism)
  2. Safety (turnover, training, poor decision making, discipline issues, accidents/injuries)
  3. Quality (poor decision making, lack of interest/attention, task awareness)

According to Rehab Center Rankingsconstruction workers have the second highest rate of substance abuse among major employment segments. Installation and maintenance, a job segment within the construction industry, has the fifth highest ranking in the U.S.

When you combine the construction and installation/maintenance job segments, they account for roughly 25 percent of those in the construction-related workforce that have a substance abuse problem. In addition, 75 percent of the 27 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed full time.

The Surgeon General report estimates substance abuse/misuse costs all industries $442 billion dollars each year in healthcare costs. Statistics that support these estimates include:

  • Illicit drug users use benefits eight times more frequently than non-users
  • Substance abusers are absent an average of three weeks more per year and tardy three times more than non-abusers
  • Substance abusers are 33-50 percent less productive
  • Substance abusers incur 300-400 percent more in medical costs
  • 27 million Americans are substance abusers, 75 percent or 20.25 million of them are members of the workforce
  • 66 percent of current/recent substance abusers change jobs on average of three times every five years
  • In 2015, 11.6 percent of men and 6.1 percent of women needed substance abuse treatment
  • 70 percent of businesses report issues with substance abuse in the past year

The National Safety Council and nonprofit Shatterproof collaborated with the University of Chicago to develop the “Real Cost of Substance Use to Employers” calculator, it’s available here. The tool provides estimated costs for lost time, turnover/re-training and healthcare. The results can be expanded to include the estimated impact based on industry type, geographical location and number of employees.
Every employer should strive to prevent substance abuse in the workplace and maintain a culture that supports a substance abuse-free workplace. Employers can take very specific steps to help ensure they are protecting their business, their workers and the public, by implementing a substance use/impairment in the workplace policy that includes:

  1. Definition of substance use, abuse and impairment
  2. Statement of who is covered by the policy/program
  3. Statement of employees’ rights to confidentiality
  4. Employee education and training
  5. Training provided in the identification of impaired behavior
  6. Substance abuse programs and assistance
  7. Outline of how substance abuse and impairment will be addressed in the workplace
  8. Statement of circumstances when drug or alcohol testing will be conducted
  9. Provision of disciplinary actions

A well-executed substance abuse program can help contractors maximize productivity, enhance their competitive position and reduce the expenses and incidents/accidents associated with workplace substance abuse.


To view the original article, click here.