Though many were already aware, a White House declaration in late October highlighted that the opioid addiction epidemic is a public health crisis. While the visibility of the issue is helpful, it is also important to note which industries are hit hardest by substance abuse, how to manage a realistic drug testing policy and what to do if employees test positive. With the crisis taking nearly 100 American lives each day, there is no time to waste in developing a plan to keep your workplace safe and your employees motivated to stay clean. This blog is not a substitute for advice from a certified legal professional, BirdDogHR’s research may help shed some light on the ways a company could handle addiction among its workforce.

According to an October 2017 article by Construction Dive, the current opioid crisis disproportionately affects the construction industry more than any other sector, with a total prescription opioid spend at 20%, which is at least 5% higher than any other industry included in their study. This is also especially dangerous within the industry because of the physical and collaborative nature of the labor itself. Construction workers often suffer wear and tear on their bodies and are prescribed opioids by physicians, so they can return to work without pain. Due to their highly addictive nature, many people become dependent on opioids and experience distressing withdrawal symptoms. If workers are struggling with an opioid addiction, the consequences could be dire including delays, equipment damage, theft, and up to severe injury and death.

Implementing random drug screenings both during and after the hiring process can be helpful in keeping would-be users accountable, as well as help employers to identify users before the initial hire. This can be done when candidates come in for interviews as well as randomly throughout the year. Due to the high-risk worksites, it’s vital to know that employees are not operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol and ensures customers of your commitment to safety. These policies should be outlined clearly in employee handbooks and disclosed at the time of the interviews in order to promote transparency and positive behaviors, as well as encourage current users to find the help they need.

It is also important to have policies in place in the event an employee would test positive for opioids or other substances during a random test. These could be disciplinary policies requiring completion of a treatment program or even more consequential up to termination. Policies should be clearly stated to reduce the confusion. While some companies tend to favor immediate termination, that can be problematic for many reasons. It’s often the case that employees have been legally prescribed the opiates by a physician for a number of health problems. Instead of termination, consider giving an employee a deadline to develop a plan with their physician to wean off the opiates and seek other treatment options. In the meantime, adjust their workload and schedule in order to ensure that they are not in a situation to create an unsafe environment for themselves or others. Regardless of which policy the company favors, it’s imperative that policies are consistently administered when it comes to handling positive drug screenings. Develop a company policy that aligns with the organization’s core values and appropriate legal policy.

Employee assistance programs (EAP) can help the employee heal but also save managers time and money, as EAPs can be 25-200% more cost-effective than replacing an employee. EAPs often include counseling, referrals and follow-up services, which can help employees break the cycle of opioid addiction and return to being productive members of the workforce, as well as set an example for how to overcome addiction in a healthy way.

Often, applications and interviews don’t provide enough information for managers to make the best hire. BirdDogHR Drug and Background Screening services can provide peace of mind for you and your company. Services can also be made available for existing employees to ensure that your workplace remains safe. To learn more, contact us today.