Employee Drug Abuse: You are legally liable

By: Pam Cox, RN

As America’s choice for quality, low cost drug testing supplies, we know that testing of employees is vital. But it is only one strategy for dealing with drug abuse in the workplace. Comprehensive drug abuse prevention strategies, when followed in a constant and diligent manner, not only address safety issues but performance and serious legal liabilities.

Drug abuse can have a truly detrimental impact on your business’ safety record and cost. Data from the Nation Institute on Drug Abuse shows substance abusers are almost four times likely to be involved in workplace accidents. This will raise the cost of workers compensation costs, not to mention that abusers’ medical costs can run 300% more than those of other employees, raising health care premiums as well. Substance abusers are also far more likely to be less productive and miss work. As a business owner, CEO, or Administrator, whether in the private sector or the medical field, the issue of employee drug use is a legal liability.

The truth is that General Business Liability Insurance, most companies carry, is not enough to protect against legal costs that can drain cash flow and bankrupt your business. Drug testing must be a critical part of every employer’s safety program. The good news is that with advances in testing technology, such as K2 testing, employers can implement a quality drug testing program that is efficient in terms of time and money. The rewards are considerable: you can protect your company against OSHA fines, and your employees know that co-workers can be trusted not to have substance abuse problems that can put them, customers, or the quality of work in jeopardy. By putting multiple safeguards in place you can manage the risk.

The following is a helpful checklist to help improve safety and performance while cutting your costs and preventing the potential for a lawsuit:

1. Have a solid drug testing program as part of your business’ policy and procedure manual.
National Institutes of Health research shows that companies that don’t test for drugs become a harbor of refuge for both drug and alcohol abusers. The program will not only screen out drug users but will demonstrate your commitment to stop drug use in your workplace.

2. Establish and communicate a strong front-line defense.
Reduce potential liability or charges of neglect, and be able to show through documentation your determination to ensure a safe and productive workplace. When employees are informed, educated, and held accountable through a strong policy and drug testing program, this ensures your best defense against liability lawsuits.

3. Educate all employees to recognize the signs and symptoms of substance abuse.
The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence site, NCADD, provides specific signs and symptoms to watch for should you suspect an employee is involved in substance abuse. The following is a list of physical and health warning signs of drug abuse:

  • Eyes that are bloodshot or pupils that are smaller or larger than normal.
  • Frequent nosebleeds – could be related to snorted drugs (meth or cocaine).
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
  • Seizures without a history of epilepsy.
  • Deterioration in personal grooming or physical appearance.
  • Injuries/accidents and person won’t or can’t tell you how they got hurt.
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
  • Shakes, tremors, incoherent or slurred speech, impaired or unstable coordination.

Behavioral signs of drug abuse:

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school; loss of interest in extracurricular activities, hobbies, sports or exercise; decreased motivation.
  • Complaints from co-workers, supervisors, teachers or classmates.
  • Unusual or unexplained need for money or financial problems; borrowing or stealing; missing money or valuables.
  • Silent, withdrawn, engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
  • A sudden change in relationships, friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.
  • Frequently getting into trouble (arguments, fights, accidents, illegal activities).

Psychological warning signs of drug abuse:

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude.
  • Sudden mood changes, irritability, angry outbursts or laughing at nothing.
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity or agitation.
  • Lack of motivation; inability to focus, appearing lethargic or spaced out.
  • Appearing fearful, withdrawn, anxious, or paranoid, with no apparent reason.

Remember, Promote, Protect, and Prevent!

Employers who are educated about substance abuse issues can: Promote a healthy work environment. Protect their business’ well-being by controlling cost. Prevent costly OSHA fines and liability suits.

Rapid Detect INC. can assist you in reaching the goals of a drug-free workplace.