October 3, 2022

Supporting a Drug-Free Workplace

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GOALS OF THIS GUIDE

Substance abuse and dependence is an unfortunate and disheartening reality that affects Americans from all walks of life. Addiction is an equalizer that does not discriminate based on age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. According to the Surgeon General, 20.8 million people meet the criteria for substance use disorder. This equates to nearly 8 percent of the country’s population and a huge portion of the American workforce.

The High Price of Employee Substance Abuse

Research is clear on the financial ramifications associated with workplace substance abuse, but a high price is also paid in human capital. When even one employee battles substance use disorder (SUD), the entire organization is at risk in more ways than employers could imagine.

  • Workers’ Compensation Workers’ compensation is a necessity to protect and provide for injured workers. However, when a worker has been injured as the result of alcohol or illicit drug abuse, employers could pay the price in their policy premiums. Unfortunately, when an employee has an SUD, they are also five times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim. To help protect employers against these increased costs, it is strongly encouraged that all employers implement a drug-free workplace policy and drug testing.
  • Medical Costs Substance abuse is hard on the body and the mind. Those who suffer from substance use disorder are more likely to encounter costly medical conditions than their sober peers. According to a report from the National Safety Council, these employees cost an average of $1,852 more in healthcare premiums. They are also more likely to require emergency care, hospital admission, and mental health services.
  • Unsafe Work Environment Substance abuse comes with some well-known side effects, including reduced response time, inattentiveness, and symptoms of hangover or withdrawal. Unsurprisingly, these all add up to an increased risk for workplace injury. Research has shown that employees with an SUD are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in workplace accidents, presenting a risk to both themselves and their co-workers.
  • Reduced Productivity While their sober colleagues will have days that are less productive than others, day-to-day productivity of an addicted employee will average 33 percent lower. They tend to get the job done slower, with greater chance for error, and are also more likely to miss work. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, all of this combines to cost employers $49 billion each year in lost productivity.

Reducing the Cost of Workplace Substance Abuse

Employers bear much of the burden when it comes to societal cost of substance abuse. Approximately 70 percent of those with an SUD are currently employed. This means that, in any given organization, the likelihood is high that someone is quietly dealing with the overwhelming and dangerous reality of alcohol or drug abuse.

LWCC Safety Services

Drug-free workplaces are critical to maintaining safe work environments. LWCC is proud to support the National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance in their annual observance of National Drug-Free Work Week from October 17 – 23. Help your organization combat substance abuse and increase safety by exploring our many free resources, including a sample drug-free workplace policy, at lwcc.com/safety-health-wellness.

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