Last updated: September 25, 2023
The construction industry is laden with problems, and many of these problems involve deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. Getting projects completed right and on time is always a priority and a concern. Getting it done can require long hours, which is consistent with construction work overall — it’s simply a physically demanding, stressful, and dangerous work environment. Some workers in the industry may yield to drugs to cope with the stress while those already consuming drugs may start abusing them more. And in the construction industry, this dynamic can be harmful to individual workers as much as it is to the industry. Having a drug-free workplace is essential, and we provide five things about it that all contractors need to know.
1. The construction industry has one of the highest rates of drug abuse.
The United States is home to the second largest construction market anywhere in the world. The construction industry in the U.S. is also home to one of the highest rates of alcohol and drug abuse than any other industry. In fact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that the construction industry is second only to the mining industry for alcohol abuse and second to the accommodations and food services for drug abuse. The combination of these statistics is not good.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor in partnership with the Substance Abuse Program Administrators Association claim that up to 15 percent of construction workers have admitted to illicit drug consumption while working. Those are only admissions, workers — knowing their drugs abuse is illegal and fearing their jobs — are probably less likely to admit to drug use or abuse even when the questioning is anonymous.
2. You can test for marijuana even in states where it’s legal.
Marijuana is legal for medicinal and recreational purposes in more and more states, and the trend shows no sign of stopping. That said, it is still illegal federally, so the construction company has every right to test its employees for marijuana while testing for other drugs, too.
3. You must have and follow a written drug testing policy.
Information and consistency are important. Having a written drug testing policy allows the company to fulfill its mission to be a drug-free workplace. A written policy systematizes and validates the policy. Once written, it can be communicated to all employees in a cohesive and consistent manner. Additionally, a written drug policy allows you to ensure the procedures are being followed and are in compliance with federal and state laws.
What’s more though, a written drug testing policy will help your company stay in compliance with OSHA rules and allow you to track employees whom you suspect has a substance abuse problem.
4. There are specific laws as to when you can conduct a drug test.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) oversees rules and regulations on drug testing. Companies must be in compliance when it develops, implements, and administers its drug testing policy. Here are two important factors to keep in mind.
Random must really be random.
OSHA requires employers to inform employees about how to report occupational injuries or illnesses, but it restricts rules that would intimidate or discourage an employee from reporting an accident. OSHA determined that automatic post-accident drug testing could discourage employees from this kind of reporting, thus, post-accident automatic drug testing is not permitted by OSHA. Random testing, however, is not affected by this relatively new rule. But random testing must indeed be random testing and not disguised as post-accident testing.
Reasonable suspicion requires certain objective criteria.
There are two exceptions to the post-accident drug testing prohibition rule, and they are: federal & state law or reasonable suspicion. If federal or state law requires post-accident drug testing for things like workers compensation, then doing so will not be considered for retaliatory purposes by OSHA. Companies can also allow a post-accident drug testing in situations where it is reasonably possible that an employee’s drug use contributed to the accident.
The criteria to determine reasonable suspicion is not established by the new rule but will be determined on a case-by-case basis. An investigation will render objective criteria, and through this investigation, reasonable suspicion may arise. Generally, though, reasonable suspicion can be considered in most cases that involve the use of motor skills — for instance, accidents that involve:
- Failure to lock out
- Trip and falls
When determining “reasonable possibility,” ask yourself: Did you have a reasonable basis for concluding that drug use contributed to the accident? What insight led you to this conclusion? The more details the less possibility of OSHA retaliation.
5. Drug testing has a positive impact on business.
Drug testing that is systemic and institutional will benefit the company in many ways, in addition to cultivating the company as a safe workplace. Here are four of those ways.
It goes without saying that if your employees are in tip-top condition and their faculties are not impaired, productivity will benefit. Fewer errors will be made. Less poor decisions will be made. Fewer missteps will be taken. Improved productivity can lead to many other benefits for the company, too, like meeting deadlines and profits.
Fewer and less severe workplace accidents
All workers are required to wear certain protective gear for protection against accidents. Keep in mind the construction industry experienced 17% of all fatalities in 2013, and the most common reasons were due to falls, being struck by an object or being trapped between objects, and electrocution. This is especially important if workers are consuming drugs before or during work because — if they are — they are not fully in control of their faculties. These workers, who others depend on for work and safety purposes, may tend to make poor decisions that could lead to accidents. A drug-free workplace cuts down the risk or poor judgment and poor decisions.
Reduced workers compensation insurance costs
This benefit falls in line with the above benefit: fewer accidents means less injured employees means fewer workers compensation insurance costs.
Less absenteeism and turnover
Persons who consume or abuse drugs are less dependable and if high or recovering from a high, these workers may skip work, quit work, or be fired. A drug-free workplace minimizes this risk because workers are on constant notice that they could be randomly chosen for a drug test.
Moving forward with a drug testing policy
It is always good policy to have well-defined policies. A drug testing policy offers only benefits to your company. A drug-free workplace offers more benefits. It’s time — if you haven’t already — to get started. And if you do have a policy in place, it’s time to re-evaluate it to make sure it’s producing the results it is intended to produce.