What employers can gain from an effective and ongoing drug screening program

While some may question the need for pre-employment drug screening, data from the National Institute of Health indicates that nearly 75 percent of all adult illicit drug users are employed.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that drug usage costs employers between $75 billion and $100 billion each year in lost time, accidents, health care and worker’s compensation.  

These numbers alone provide a strong argument to why effective drug screening programs should be a top priority for employers, both big and small.

Pre-employment drug screening has numerous benefits that should not be ignored. The testing process aids in evaluating employee’s dependability, ability to follow instructions and punctuality. Perhaps most important, however, is the role pre-employment screening plays in minimizing workplace substance use.

The cost-savings can be significant. Estimates from the U.S. Small Business Administration indicate that employees with substance use issues cost employers an average of $7,000 annually. Furthermore, 65 percent of all accidents on the job are related to drugs or alcohol, and employees who abuse substances cause 40 percent of on-the-job injuries.

In Wisconsin, there currently is no general or comprehensive drug testing law that prohibits or regulates drug testing, leaving many employers with the option to require drug screening prior to a job being formally accepted.

Wisconsin employers can require drug screenings of job applicants provided that state laws against discrimination are followed and that there is proper handling of sample specimens to avoid inaccuracies of results.

Additionally, certain steps must be followed, including:

• Applicants must be notified that drug screening is part of the employment process and agreement to undergoing screening must be provided in writing before the test is conducted;
• Employment with the organization must be formally offered and contingent on passing the drug screening; and
• All applicants for the same job must be tested similarly with screenings conducted by a state-certified testing lab.

Since 2007, Wisconsin employees who fail or refuse a drug test can be removed from their job.

Employers who require pre-employment drug screening send a message that safety and sobriety are taken seriously and provide incentive for prospective job applicants and even current employees to lead healthy lifestyles that won’t compromise workplace performance or safety.

Effective screening programs can cover both pre-placement screening and reasonable cause screening. Programs also should include post-accident and random testing of employees to ensure you’re getting the best out of your employees at all times. Testing can include hair collection screening, urine screening and breath alcohol screening.

Drug screening of employees can be an invaluable tool to employers who are committed to creating safe, efficient work environments for their employees and customers. It’s a decision you won’t regret.  

Dr. Mary Jo Capodice
is the systems medical director for Aurora Occupational Health and Wellness, a part of Aurora Employer Solutions.

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