It is important for employers to have an alcohol and substance abuse policy because many employees are abusing drugs or alcohol at work, which can lead to unacceptable behavior. This article will discuss how employers should set drug policies that are compliant with labor laws, ensure the safety of all employees, prevent workplace injuries or even fatalities and protect the company’s legal interests.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), about 18 million people in America suffer from alcohol addiction and another 8 million struggle with drug addiction. Research by Harvard Medical School revealed that more than 120,000 workers per year test positive for illegal drugs or alcohol when given a drug test after an industrial accident involving casualties or misses. The number is alarming, especially when you consider that the actual amount of people abusing drugs or alcohol at work is much higher than what you can see in this research.

Alcohol and Substance Abuse Causes Workplace Accidents, Injuries, Fatalities

The main cause of accidents at the workplace is fatigue and stress. These factors impair an employee’s judgment, which results in poor decision-making. Employees who abuse drugs or alcohol (whether legal or illegal) are four times more likely to be involved in a workplace accident than sober employees, according to Occupational Medicine Practice News (OMPN). Fatigue may not only result in injuries but also in fatalities at work. For example, The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 991 fatal injuries (fatalities) among 16- to 17-year old non-agricultural workers in the period between 2003 and 2007, though this number has declined in recent years. Alcohol was a major factor involved in these fatalities.

Legal Issues for Employers Who Don’t Have Drug Policy

If you don’t have an alcohol and substance abuse policy in place, you might face lawsuits from different kinds of people: employees, third parties (a person or business that’s not directly involved in an accident but suffered some damage), or from the federal government itself if it turns out that your drug policy is insufficient. Employees can claim, for example, disability discrimination if they become addicted to drugs after being offered a job at your company by alleging that the addiction resulted from the work conditions — which are not necessarily true. Third parties can sue you, for example, if your intoxicated employees cause an accident with their clients, students, or customers. They can even go to the federal government and claim that it is their fault that they were injured and ask to be compensated by the federal government’s fund for worker injuries.

How to Keep Your Company Safe From Alcohol and Substance Abuse-Related Accidents?

The best way to keep your company safe from accidents caused by alcohol or substance abuse is having a written drug policy in place as well as employee training on such issues as how to recognize impairment (judgment, physical abilities) due to drugs or alcohol; disciplinary measures; applicable laws about workplace alcohol and substance abuse; requirements of your drug policy (employee testing); confidentiality of the policy and more.