Construction job sites are among the most dangerous places on the planet to work, and as any contractor knows, keeping costs down means keeping the job site safe. It’s already an inherently dangerous, stressful, and physically demanding profession, but when you add drugs or alcohol into the mix, the dangers – and the costs – can go through the roof.
How prevalent is the problem in the construction industry? The numbers are sobering. According to the Department of Labor (DOL), construction workers have the highest rate of drug users (15.6 percent) out of all industries in the U.S. And workers under the influence of drugs or alcohol are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in workplace accidents and five times more likely to file a workers' compensation claims. Lost time and workers’ compensation claims by substance abusers are estimated to cost the U.S. economy over $240 billion every year.
Getting a handle on this problem is crucial to jobsite safety – and to your bottom line.
If you’re seriously committed to establishing and maintaining a culture of safety and controlling your workers’ compensation insurance costs, strict enforcement of a drug-free, substance-free workplace should be a priority. And implementing a drug and alcohol testing program is key to that commitment.
But before you implement a testing program, there are some important considerations to think about:
- The law. Not every state allows every kind of testing, so make sure you know the rules and regulations in your state to avoid costly headaches down the road.
- Program options. Consider the type of drug and alcohol testing program you want to implement such as pre-employment, post-accident, for cause, random, periodic, etc.
- Test options. Think about the type of test (urine, hair, saliva, blood) you want to use and why. A urine test (lab-based or instant-test methodology) is the most commonly used for illicit drugs and a breath test is the most commonly used for alcohol.
- Your substance abuse policy. Have your substance abuse policy reviewed by legal counsel, and put it directly into your employee handbook and safety manuals. Make sure employees are aware of the drug and alcohol testing policy from the beginning.
- Internal or Third-Party Administrator (TPA) handling. You can do your own testing or hire a TPA. If you choose to outsource, be sure to find a TPA that’s reliable, trustworthy, easy to contact, and knowledgeable of applicable laws.
- Testing protocol. Establish a standard testing protocol and follow it for every test. Continuity is key to establishing good internal habits and gaining trust in the program from your workers.
- Management training. Train managers and supervisors in reasonable suspicion guidelines and establish clear protocols for dealing with an employee who shows visible signs of impairment. This can help identify problems before they escalate.
- Confidentiality. Be consistent and fair when dealing with employees and maintain the strictest confidentiality in testing.
In an industry as hazardous as construction, you have to work a little harder to provide a safe workplace. Establishing and implementing a drug and alcohol testing program can pay huge dividends – fewer accidents and injuries, fewer workers’ compensation claims, and lower insurance costs.
To learn more about controlling alcohol and substance abuse problems in your workplace, visit the Construction Coalition for a Drug- and Alcohol- Free Workplace (CCDAFW), an organization founded to help rid the construction industry of injuries and deaths due to drug and alcohol related accidents.
For more ways to keep your construction insurance costs down, talk to the New York construction insurance experts at BNC.