Implementing a drug and alcohol testing policy requires fairness to employees and adherence to state

There is a very good chance that someone in your workplace abuses alcohol or other drugs. According to estimates by The National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 68 percent of illegal users are employed either full-time or part time and one out of every 10 people in the United States has an alcohol problem.

According to a report by the National Research Council, the use of alcohol and other drugs away from the workplace may have detrimental effects on job performance, especially in safety-sensitive positions. The report also states that alcohol and other drug use is consistently linked to absenteeism and accidents.

Costs arising from these problems are passed on to employees through higher insurance premiums and reduced salaries or benefit packages, and to consumers through higher-priced products. Hidden costs are high and include stress to other employees who must continually fill in for absent or late co-workers, damage to equipment, and damage to the company’s public image.

For an alarm company, damage to its public image might be it’s greatest loss.

“I think it’s important for every alarm dealer to maintain a very high level of vigilance over what goes on in its workforce,” says Mark Neuberger, a shareholder with the law firm of Buchanan Ingersol Professional Corp. in Aventura, Fla.

Implementing a drug and alcohol testing policy requires fairness to employees and adherence to state and federal laws. Seek legal counsel and develop a policy that covers how you will test employees, how often, where and under what circumstances. Also, devise a plan and policy for assisting or not assisting employees who test positive for drugs and/or alcohol.

Seek Legal Counsel to Create Drug Testing Policy

One company that did take that responsibility into their own hands is Guardian International, Inc. in Hollywood, Fla. They began drug testing three years ago. No person can be employed unless the company first tests him or her for the presence of drugs. Employment is pending upon the results.

“We started doing drug testing because as a security company, we have people’s lives in our hands,” says Sheila Ginsburg, secretary, treasurer and director of the company.

For companies interested in incorporating drug testing into their company policy, the first step, according to Neuberger, is to get competent legal advice. “Any employer who wants to do drug testing should look to the federal and state laws where drug testing is mandated on how to set up a program,” she says.

Kathy Deines, director of sales and marketing for PharmChem Laboratories, Inc., a drug testing company in Menlo Park, Calif., agrees. She says, “We always advise people to use legal counsel, because they have to take into consideration the state and or county laws that affect drug testing.

“Most states have no problems with pre-employment drug testing or post-cause and accident testing. Legalities arise when you get into random testing. Some states feel it is too invasive and have certain restrictions. Other states require that an employee be in a safety-sensitive position before employers can authorize random testing. Certain states require a specific time period before you can begin.”

Find a Lab and Decide How To Collect Samples

Once a policy is written, the next step, says Deines, is to ask questions on the specifics of the program, such as:

Which laboratory should be used? Which drugs will the company test for? Who will collect the samples?

How Often Should You Test Employees?

It depends on their program. Most testing starts with a pre-employment test and then a random program.

Then, suggests Deines, companies should determine how many employees will be tested, what percentage of that base should be tested over a year’s time and they should spread the number of tests taken throughout the year.

“My personal opinion is that pre-employment testing is not good enough,” says Deines. Deines says the pre-employment test is more like an idiot test, because an applicant would have to be an idiot not to stay off drugs for a few days in order to have the drug test. Following up pre-employment testing with random, post accident, and for-cause testing, tells employees that drug usage is not accepted in the workplace.

Richard Hahn of Richard Hahn & Associates in Olean, N.Y., offers specialized marketing services to the security industry.

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