Workplace substance abuse

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How can employers curb the risk of workplace substance abuse?

There’s no doubt that workplace substance abuse on the part of your workers impacts employee safety along with the number and frequency of workers’ benefit claims. But there are steps you can take to curb these incidents and lower your risk of claims caused primarily by substance abuse.

Just how does workplace substance abuse impact your future claims?

You’ve probably already noted how substance abuse has affected your experience mods. If not, here’s what you’ll see: Added medical expenses and higher risk of surgery. An increased chance of an overdose on the job. More days away from work and prolonged treatment plans. And a decrease in morale.

If you like numbers, here are a few statistics for you, from, just on opioid use and misuse:

  • Most employers (86 percent) believe taking opioids even as prescribed can impair job performance, yet only 60 percent have policies requiring employees to notify their employer when they are using a prescription opioid.
  • Employers say they’re more concerned about hiring qualified workers, employee benefits costs and worker benefit costs than they are about employee use of legal prescription or illicit opioids.
  • Half of employers are very confident they have adequate HR policies and resources to deal with opioid use and misuse.
  • 41 percent of employers would return an employee to work after he or she is treated for misusing prescription opioids.
Related: Steps to reduce on-the-job injuries


What’s an employer to do?

Start with a carefully worded drug policy on workplace substance abuse. Your policy and any future amendments need to be developed collaboratively with your human resources and legal counsel. Consider including these points:

  • The types of testing you’ll perform: pre-employment, during employment and post-accident*
  • Who will be subject to testing: everyone or only those in certain jobs?
  • What substances are prohibited, and how you will test (i.e., urine, saliva or blood tests)
  • Consequences of a positive test and availability of assistance

* Note that mandatory post-incident testing sometimes deters reporting, because the employee knows that he or she will be tested. This may cause them to delay their reporting, or simply not report it.

Related: Workplace violence: How to create a safer environment

View the infographic below, courtesy of Zurich, for more considerations when creating your substance abuse policy.

tribal workplace substance abuse