Drug-free safety programs provide discounts, prevent accidents

Drug abuse in your workplace may be more prevalent than you think — 15 to 17 percent of employees in an average U.S. company are substance abusers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s why the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and organizations like Working Partners are working to make workplaces drug-free.

“A drug-free workplace program is an important safety tool to help control an employer’s workers’ compensation costs and operating costs associated with drug use such as theft, lost productivity, etc.,” says Ron Suttles, director of employer services for the Ohio BWC’s Drug-Free Safety Program. “By deterring drug and alcohol use in the workplace, an employer may prevent an accident from happening.”

In addition, your company can participate in the Ohio BWC’s Drug-Free Safety Program, through which the employer receives a rebate/bonus upon successful completion of the program year.

The program is open to state fund employers who pay workers’ compensation into the state insurance fund and includes private employers and public employer taxing districts. Self-insured employers may participate but are not eligible for the program bonus.

The program offers up to a 4 or 7 percent bonus depending upon the level of program participation and compatibility with other BWC safety programs.

Employers are required to submit an annual report to verify they are meeting program requirements.

Implementing a drug-free program in your workplace is simple, says Dee Mason, founder and CEO of Working Partners, which provides drug-free workplace consulting and training. While Working Partners is not directly affiliated with the Ohio BWC, it does provide technical assistance.

There are five elements of a comprehensive drug-free workplace program:

  • A written substance abuse policy — This should summarize the program, include the responsibilities of employers and employees, outline prohibited conduct and consequences, explain the circumstances of testing and reference available help.
  • Employee awareness and education — Employees need to be aware of the policy and its provisions.
  • Supervisor training — Supervisors should learn about the impact of drugs and alcohol in the workplace, how to recognize, document and confront a possible substance abuse problem, develop the company policy and learn how to refer an employee to resources/testing and how to support a recovering employee.
  • An employee assistance plan of action — Employers need to identify a plan of action and resources for employees who seek their own help, are referred by management for a possible alcohol/drug problem or have a positive alcohol/drug test.
  • Drug and alcohol testing (as appropriate) — Your company must decide when it will test employees, who will be tested, what drugs will be tested for, what the appropriate cut-off levels are and what protocols and laboratory will be used.

Many businesses may think the cost to implement such a program outweighs the benefits, but that is not the case.

“The rebate/bonus is intended to incent employers to do the right thing,” Suttles says. “The benefit of the program is long term and difficult at times to quantify since claim preventions benefits are nebulous but are much greater than the rebate/bonus in terms of lost productivity and pilferage.”

Mason says the program this year has been expanded to include more employers. Previously, some employers were unable to receive an Ohio BWC Drug-Free Safety Program rebate/bonus if they were already receiving other incentives, but now they can.

For example, state-funded group-rated employers were previously unable to receive the incentive but now qualify.

TO LEARN MORE about the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Drug-Free Safety Program and how to implement a program at your workplace, visit http://bit.ly/aw8xeb or call (800) 644-6292. To learn more about Working Partners, visit www.workingpartners.com or call (614) 337-8200.