Studies have shown that substance-abusing workers, compared to their non-abusing colleagues: are five times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim, have unexcused absences from work twice as often, are late for work three times as often, request early dismissal twice as often, and are more likely to steal company property and be involved in workplace accidents.

By taking steps to combat substance abuse and addiction among employees, a company can increase productivity, reduce workers’ compensation claims, absenteeism, employee thefts, accidents, legal liability, and turnover, lower medical and health benefit costs and improve morale and employee health. And because Americans spend so much time in the workplace, businesses are in an excellent position to help employees, their families, and their communities combat the nation’s number-one health problem.

The best way to signal that substance abuse prevention and employee health are an important company priority is to have an official, written company policy. Involve employee groups or unions early in the process of developing your policy. Experience shows that an effective policy includes:

  • a rationale that explains the policy’s justification, purpose, and goals
  • a clear statement of exactly what behaviors you expect from employees (e.g., doing their work free from any negative effects of substance use) and what behaviors you prohibit (e.g., drinking, smoking, or drug use at work, or in ways that negatively affect work)
  • explicitly stated consequences for violating the policy, including procedures for determining if a violation has occurred, and methods by which an employee can appeal
  • assurances that you will protect confidentiality; administer the policy fairly, impartially, and consistently; and try to help employees gain access to resources that provide needed help. Such efforts can range from offering information about locally available organizations to providing an EAP or a health plan that covers counseling and treatment programs.

Make sure your employees know about and understand the policy. Ways of publicizing it might include informational meetings (on company time), e-mail messages, newsletters, posters, and payroll inserts. Each employee should receive a personal copy of the policy. Many employers find it useful to have each individual sign a statement acknowledging that the policy has been read and understood and that any questions have been answered.

A cooperative, positive approach and tone usually work best to gain employees’ support. Most people want a safe, productive workplace and will accept steps to secure one. Make it clear that your company’s basic goal in formulating and enforcing the policy is helping valued employees continue to do their jobs well. Emphasize that anyone who seeks help with a problem will have your support and understanding. Check out the rest of KEMI’s resources on identifying and combating drug-abuse in the workplace by clicking here.

KEMI does not assume liability for the content of information contained herein. Safety and health remain your responsibility. This information is to be used for informational purposes only and not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for proper training, supervision or manufacturers’ instructions/recommendations. KEMI, by publication of this information, does not assume liability for damage or injury arising from reliance upon it. Compliance with this information is not a guarantee or warranty that you will be in conformity with any laws or regulations nor does it ensure the absolute safety of any person, place or object, including, but not limited to, you, your occupation, employees, customers or place of business.