When Chuck Wade worked as a narcotics officer, he seized more than $25,000 in drugs 11 times, and every operation didn’t start with shady people in sketchy alleys — they began undercover in a company, where he would, inevitably, end up arresting the No. 1 drug dealer in that business.
“I saw firsthand the problems (drugs) were causing with productivity and absenteeism and tardiness and leaving the worksite without permission, and it was truly destroying a company from within,” says Wade, president and CEO of The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Inc. and state director for Drugs Don’t Work in Georgia. “Quite often, upper-level management wasn’t even aware it was happening until it was too late and the company was suffering and they were bleeding red ink, and they began to realize there was a problem there.”
But often, management wasn’t aware that drugs were the issue, which is why creating a certified drug-free workplace can help prevent problems from even forming. On top of reducing problems, there’s a financial incentive, as well. Twelve states in the country, including Georgia, have a state-mandated discount on workers’ compensation insurance for certain state-certified drug-free workplaces. The discounts range, but Georgia has the highest with a 7.5 percent discount, which means savings of a few hundred dollars a year if you’re a smaller business, all the way up to as much as $100,000 for some large companies.
If these numbers have caught your attention, then the first step to becoming a certified drug-free workplace is to put a substance-abuse policy in place.
“If a company does not have a substance-abuse policy in place, then the company has put themselves in a precarious legal position,” Wade says. … “Every company, regardless of size, needs to have a substance-abuse policy.”
If you don’t have anything in place, the simplest way to get started is to contact Wade, who can e-mail you a fill-in-the-blank policy that was created by the organization’s attorney, who has more than 25 years of labor law experience and specialized in workplace law.
“He wrote the law on drug-free workplace here in Georgia, and he wrote the law on substance-abuse policy,” Wade says. “It’s the most legally sound substance-abuse policy a company can have.”
The policy is written in a way that it can be customized to any size business, and it’s absolutely free.
Once you have a policy in place, then the second step is to do drug testing. On average, a drug test costs $25 if it’s processed externally.
“All companies need to be doing drug testing, primarily because they don’t want to inadvertently hire a drug user,” Wade says. “One drug-using employee can single-handedly destroy a company from within, and I’ve seen that happen many times.”
In addition to applicant drug testing, participants are required to do post-accident testing. Not only does it increase safety in the workplace, but it protects the employer. For example, Georgia law states that if an employee tests positive for drugs within eight hours of an accident or for alcohol within four hours, the employee will not win a workers’ comp claim against the company. On average, it costs about $75,000 to treat a back injury, so if one of your employees gets hurt, and your insurance provider has to pay that much, your rates will go up.
“There are companies that have gone out of business for one reason and one reason only, and that’s because their workers’ comp rates got so high because there were so many claims filed against them they couldn’t afford workers’ comp insurance anymore, and they were forced out of business,” Wade says.
In addition to these two types of testing, participants are required to do reasonable suspicion testing and post-treatment/rehabilitation testing.
After testing, the third step to becoming a certified drug-free workplace is drug education. This is critical because Wade says 77 percent of drug users are employed, so education in the workplace is the most effective way to reduce demand.
Education can be through guest speakers, DVDs or newsletters. Most companies opt for the newsletter option, which costs $150 a year, as it doesn’t require employees losing productivity to sit through a speaker or DVD. Newsletters are often more effective than the other options, because employees can refer back to them and share the information with family, too. Additionally, Wade says research shows that employees will retain only 9 percent of the information they hear in a presentation.
The fourth step is supervisor training, which can also be done through the same three ways as employee education. The supervisor newsletters cost a company $110 a year, and the training helps teach supervisors to recognize warning signs of drug use.
Then the last step is to provide either an employee assistance program or a list of treatment counseling centers to give employees if they test positive, so they know where to get help.
Overall, it costs $35 a year to apply for certification, which goes to the state. Other than that, the only costs are for the newsletters and drug testing, but given the payoffs that creating a drug-free workplace can provide, it’s cost-efficient.
“For more than 20 years now, all the Fortune 500 companies have been drug-free workplaces — not because of the workers’ comp discount,” Wade says. “The reasons these big boys and girls have done this — and this is one of the reasons they became the big boys and girls to begin with — is because they do the right things right. And they know with a drug-free workplace, you increase productivity, reduce your absenteeism and your tardiness, cut workers’ comp claims in half, reduce medical costs by up to 300 percent, increase overall workplace morale, cut turnover rate, reduce death and crime in the workplace, and all of that positive affects the bottom line.”
How to reach: The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Inc., (404) 223-2480 or www.livedrugfree.org