The Benefits of a Drug-Free Workplace

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week

For employers, having a drug-free workplace is paramount to employee wellness and safety at work. Every year, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) hosts the National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week to educate people about the effects of substance abuse. By offering free resources and connecting individuals with experts on the subject, NIDA works to counteract many of the misconceptions about drug and alcohol use.

This week is also the perfect opportunity to discuss the impact of drugs and alcohol in the workplace and the importance of creating a safe environment for employees. We’re here to share some of the most pivotal statistics around substance use on the job and the many benefits to employers who create and support a drug-free workplace.

The Hidden Costs of Substance Use Disorders at Work

As an employer, you prioritize workplace safety because you understand how essential promoting a secure environment for your employees is to their productivity. However, creating a safe workplace is about more than just removing hazards and preventing injuries. The wellbeing and overall health of your employees impact their productivity and absenteeism, as well as what you pay for workers’ compensation premiums.

Substance abuse is one of the most costly and detrimental health challenges employers are currently facing. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics BLS), there were 305 fatal workplace injuries in 2018 caused by unintentional overdose of a nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, fatal overdoses at work increased, on average, 24% per year from 2011-2018.

The problem of employees using drugs and alcohol during working hours has both immediate and long-lasting implications for employers. Here are just a few of the effects alcohol and drugs can have on the workplace:

Increased Absenteeism: Time is money, so when your employees are frequently late or sick it affects the productivity of the entire organization. The National Safety Council (NSC) explained that while the typical worker misses 15 days annually due to illness or reasons other than vacation or holidays, those with substance use disorders miss an average of 24.6 days a year. Educating employees about how using drugs and alcohol affects business outcomes and supporting their recovery through a drug-free workplace program can help reverse this trend. NSC found that workers who have received treatment and recovered from a substance use disorder miss the fewest days (10.9) of either group.

More Workplace Injuries: Drugs and alcohol impair an employee’s senses. This isn’t ideal for any position, but can be especially hazardous if the worker operates heavy machinery like they would in a warehouse or construction industry. An estimated 21% of workers in the U.S. have said they were put in danger or injured due to a colleague’s drinking, according to the Alcohol Rehab Guide. Even in industries with inherently less risk, like business, employees reported having to redo projects or work extra hours because of a peer’s substance use disorder.

Higher costs: With the chance for more workplace injuries, employers must be ready to bear the costs associated with substance use disorders. A new analysis by NSC and NORC at the University of Chicago uncovered that the average employer pays $2,918 in health insurance premiums for those who do not use drugs or alcohol frequently. For those with substance use disorders, health care costs are approximately $4,770. This, in addition to higher workers’ compensation costs, are not sustainable for any employer.

Why Create a Drug-free Workplace Program

Investing in your employees’ health and wellness is also a commitment to improving your organization. Supporting employees who have a substance abuse disorder and helping them find and complete treatment is made easier when you have a drug-free workplace program (DFWP) in place.

Creating a program of this nature doesn’t happen overnight. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) emphasized that the first thing an organization should do is assess the need for implementing drug-free workplace policies. Is it legally required, do you want to promote a healthy and safe work environment or maybe both?

5 Parts to Every Successful Drug-Free Workplace Program

Finding the “why” for promoting a drug-free workplace helps it become ingrained in the company culture. From there, it’s time to implement the 5 key components of a DFWP as defined by SAMHSA:

  1. A written policy: The foundation of your program that includes rationale for the policies, expectations for compliance and consequences.
  2. Employee education: To prepare them for the implementation of the program and provide access to resources after the program is implemented.
  3. Supervisor training: Helps maximize the effectiveness of policies.
  4. An employee assistance program (EAP): That will provide support to employees with substance abuse disorders and other areas that may affect their job performance.
  5. Drug testing: To follow through on policies and improve workplace safety. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) explains that it’s permissible to include random drug testing, post-accident testing and tests required under federal law or a state’s workers’ compensation in the DFWP.

Drug- Free Workplace: Premium Discounts by State

A successful Drug-free workplace is the cornerstone of a productive and safe place to work, and also comes with a few more important incentives. According to The Balance Small Business, one of the most lucrative monetary incentives for employers to maintain a drug-free workplace is the opportunity to save money on workers’ compensation premiums. A number of different states offer premium discounts for organizations that implement a DFWP. Check with your state or use FFVA Mutual’s fact sheet to see if your company could be eligible for a discount that typically ranges anywhere from a 5%-10% discount on workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

Even if premium discounts aren’t available in your state, having a drug-free workplace improves your organization from the inside out. Improved productivity, safety and employee health all have a positive effect on the company’s bottom line by reducing absenteeism and costs related to substance use disorders.

FFVA Mutual: Your Partner for a Safe Working Environment

When you’re committed to starting a drug-free workplace program for your company, it may be difficult to determine where to start or how to create a sustainable program. FFVA Mutual offers the personalized support and safety resources you need to improve workplace safety across the board, reduce injuries and lower claim costs.

To learn more about FFVA Mutual’s growing catalog of safety services, including Return to Work guidance and no-cost safety training courses, contact a Solutionist today.