Last updated: June 1, 2020
The move by most states to legalize the use of marijuana has several employers. They have to choose to either maintain a zero-drug tolerance rate or put their reputation in jeopardy by accommodating those who work under the influence of drugs. Legalization of marijuana in Florida did not make the situation any better.
Drug abuse trends in the construction industry
Data from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse for Mental Health Services Administration) indicates that the industry is the second most affected with drug abuse with 16.5% of total drug abuse. The most abused drugs in the construction field are marijuana and opioids, a trend that is sweeping the nation. A 2016 report released by CNN on the status of drug abuse in the country indicated that drugs kill more people in the US than cars and guns.
The high opioid abuse in the industry is attributed to the demanding nature of the jobs. Studies show that most of the workers in the sector are older than 40 years and therefore, do not recover fast from the strenuous tasks. They depend on these addictive pain relievers as a result.
The other trend in the industry is the increasing number of young employees in the sector. It poses a problem, as the youth are more susceptible to irresponsible drug use than the older generations.
Effects of marijuana abuse on the industry
Drug abuse is the key reason behind the high accident rates in the industry, which stands at 9.8 per 100,000 full-time employees. Other effects of drug abuse at the workplace include:
- Absenteeism: It is common among construction workers who overindulge ion drugs. They are usually late for work or misuse their sick days.
- Reduced productivity: Working under the influence makes it impossible for a person the focus at work. As a result, those who abuse drugs rarely meet deadlines.
- Affects the workplace morale: Employees who value their work always cover for the mistakes of their irresponsible colleagues. However, they get discouraged if the employer condones the behavior.
The implication of Florida’s marijuana legislation on the industry
The new law on marijuana only allowed the use of marijuana for medical purposes. It does not provide guidelines to construction firms. However, the language of the legislation specifies that companies be not obliged to accommodate the use of medical marijuana onsite or at the workplace.
Most states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana have clauses that prohibit the discrimination against workers who have a medical marijuana card. However, this clause is missing in Florida’s law. Therefore, construction companies can still insist on zero drug-tolerance policy. Even more, marijuana is still illegal under federal laws, which supersedes state laws.
The construction industry’s response
Construction firms in Florida have taken a decided stand to safeguard the safety of their workers, equipment, and their bottom-line against the effects of drug abuse.
There three types of drug testing programs used by construction industry employers to monitor and keep in check drug abuse:
- Random testing: they are impromptu tests that encourage workers to keep off drugs.
- Reasonable suspicion drug testing: A construction company tests an employee for drug abuse after the person has shown indisputable evidence of intoxication. The signs include blood-shot eyes, slurred speech, rowdy behavior, the smell of alcohol on the breath or clothing, inability to carry out routine tasks, among others.
- Post-accident testing: An employer can test an employee that caused an accident at the workplace for the possibility of working under the influence.
Retaining an employee who has tested positive for abusing an illegal drug, including marijuana is solely the employer’s discretion.
Hiring veterans and training young people
Construction companies have resorted to recruiting war veterans as means of ensuring a drug-free work environment. The veterans stand out for their culture of discipline, punctuality and reduced possibility of abusing drugs. The industry has also invested in several ways of recruiting young people into the industry. Youths who are employed early in life are more likely to be responsible and stay away from drugs than the others.
The construction industry in Florida can still maintain a drug-free workplace in spite of the new constitution. They can achieve this by creating and implementing properly written drug policy.