KEY TAKEAWAYS: A drug testing program is an effective way to keep your employees healthy and safe. A company’s workforce should be able to trust their colleagues with safety, which sometimes requires a detailed plan of action.
Drug use, particularly opioid use, is spiking in Canada, and it is not just an urban problem. Many rural communities are seeing an increase in both drug use and overdose deaths, a phenomenon that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and shows no sign of slowing. Experts blame an increasingly potent and toxic supply of opioids filtering out from cities like Toronto. This is a huge problem for employers who are also dealing with the fallout of the increase in alcohol consumption and recreational drug use that accompanied the pandemic.
In response, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) recently implemented mandatory drug and alcohol testing requirements for its high-security nuclear sites across Canada. Other public agencies may follow suit, and it may be time for both private and public companies to consider investing in a drug testing program. Here’s why.
1. Mitigate Safety Risks
There is no question that drug use in the workplace increases safety risks for your workers and the public. It’s been definitively linked to increased work-related accidents and injuries by organizations such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and others.
The use of illicit drugs or abuse of prescription drugs impacts a worker’s judgment, alertness, perception, and even motor coordination, making it more likely they will suffer an accident or make a poor decision. It may be particularly concerning for those in safety-sensitive positions.
These poor decisions do not just put that solitary worker at risk. They can put all of your workers and the public at risk too. Safety concerns are the primary reasons for the drug testing mandates governed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and US organizations such as the US Department of Transportation (DOT).
2. Boost Productivity and Performance
Drug testing aims to reduce substance use, substance abuse, and the adverse effects it can have on job performance and productivity. Drug abuse on the job can lead to poor decision-making, tardiness, sleeping on the job, and a loss of focus. Reducing drug use through a robust drug testing program can eliminate these effects and ensure your workers are alert, efficient, and can comprehend dangerous situations. Clear heads also mean better motor coordination and improved emotional states. Additionally, drug testing can help your company reduce the absenteeism that is a direct result of the after-effects of drug use.
3. Manage Costs
Accidents, lost productivity, and human error are all costly problems often associated with drug use. A drug testing program can serve to mitigate these costs in 2 ways. First, it can act as a deterrent, discouraging both individual use at work and the possibility of an epidemic of use that can occur when drug abuse is unchecked. Secondly, drug testing allows you to identify problems earlier in the process and provides you with an opportunity to offer both treatment and support. Both of these can help your company reduce the costs of drug use in your workplace. These costs for society and workplaces are substantial, reaching over $46 billion annually in Canada. In the US, drug issues cost employers over $100 billion every year.
4. Improve Company Image and Culture
Pervasive drug use can negatively impact your company culture, leading to a lack of trust among employees and a feeling of vulnerability. It can lower company morale, leading to higher turnover or a lack of employee loyalty. However, it isn’t just your company culture that can be affected by a drug use issue in the workplace. Increased errors or safety concerns can impact public perceptions of your organization as well. When company morale is lowered, you can lose good workers, and when your public image is affected, you could lose sales, both of which can have disastrous consequences for your business or organization.
5. Improve Employee Heath
All too often, employees view drug testing as a punitive measure, but drug testing is actually about protecting your employees. While a positive drug test result is not proof of a drug problem, it can indicate one. A well-rounded drug testing program provides an opportunity to offer rehabilitation and other employee assistance benefits, potentially as part of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). It can also offer the opportunity to provide accommodations until recovery is complete. All of this keeps your workers safe and ensures productivity.
6. Address Workplace Violence and Illegal Activities
Drug use can lead directly to other illegal activities, such as selling illicit drugs. Drug use and prescription abuse are directly linked to increased workplace violence and harassment. Mitigating drug use in the workplace through a drug testing program demonstrates your unwillingness to tolerate the effects of drug abuse, including workplace violence and illegal activities. It shows your employees that you place a high value and priority on their ability to come to work in a safe space. Employers should also consider developing a written policy to take advantage of the benefits of background checks while avoiding many of the pitfalls that accompany them.
7. Reduce Company Liability
Drug testing can help reduce company liability and risk, particularly as it relates to safety concerns. Employers may be able to identify issues before they turn into serious problems. A drug testing policy reduces volatility and demonstrates a reasonable effort to mitigate problems.
The ballooning drug use problem does not have to become a problem for your company. A drug testing program can help you catch and mitigate potential risks and ensure your workers get the help they need.
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