Screening Program Can Cut Costs
The Business Ledger (Chicago)
employer is like most employers, you’re very interested in
One quick way to save thousands of dollars a year is to
implement a drug screening program-or to maximize the one you
Drug and alcohol abuse cost
$81 billion each year, according to the Department of Labor.
It is responsible for lost work time, poor productivity,
accidents and thefts...plus soaring health care and workers’
compensation costs. It also creates a dangerous work
The fact is, 77 percent of America’s 12 million adult drug
abusers are employed, or 8.2 percent of all full-time
employees. You can bet they don’t leave their problems at
But the real question is: how many of them work for you? Don’t
wait to find out the hard way.
Bad for Business: Drugs in the Workplace
In some industries, like manufacturing and transportation, the
impaired judgment of drug users can cost lives. But dangers
exist in white collar industries, too.
Drug users need to support their habits. Forty-four percent of
users do so by selling drugs to coworkers, according to a
National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Some resort to theft,
both against companies and other employees. For example, 18
percent of callers to the National Cocaine Helpline admit
they’ve stolen from coworkers.
In addition, absenteeism skyrockets, productivity plummets and
team morale suffers when drugs enter the workplace.
It’s been estimated that drug abusers cost employers twice as
much in medical and worker’s compensation claims. In my
experience, that’s conservative. For example, one food company
client implemented a drug screening program in 1998. That
year, workers’ comp claims totaled $1.6 million. The following
year, claims dropped to $400,000. Today, workers’ comp claims
Implementing a drug prevention program is a shrewd investment.
Now’s the time to put one in place-or give your existing plan
Five Steps to a Drug-Free
1. Define Your Drug
You can’t implement a policy until you define it. To get
started, consult The Department of Labor’s program, Working
Partners for an Alcohol and Drug-Free Workplace. Or ask a
reputable screening firm to help you craft a program.
The threat of a pre-employment drug test will immediately
deter abusers from applying. Chances are, morale will
rise-because workers don’t want to be around drug users,
2. Create Drug Screening
Some states have laws that regulate drug screening, so make
sure you’re plan is in compliance.
There are three testing scenarios to employ:
“Pre-employment Testing - All prospective hires should be
subject to drug testing.
“Random Testing - Randomly select a percentage of employees
for screening at regular intervals. Make sure selection is
truly random; it’s discriminatory to do otherwise.
“ Post-incident Test - Perform a drug test as quickly as
possible following a work-related incident.
Don’t underestimate the power of your screening program. When
the Navy first implemented one in the 1980s, drug use quickly
dropped from 28 percent to under 4 percent.
3. Choose a Testing Method
Currently, there are three methods of testing:
“ Urine Testing -the most commonly utilized test, it is
cost-effective and widely accepted. But there are
disadvantages. For one thing, employees must be sent to an
offsite lab for testing. For another, hundreds of websites
advise abstaining from drugs for three days before giving a
sample-a fact drug users know and use to beat the test.
“ Oral Fluid Testing - this form of testing is increasingly
popular, because the oral swab can be given on site at the
workplace and sent out for analysis. It costs about the same
as urine testing (about $35-$40 per test), and is limited to
the same 72-hour detection window.
“ Hair Testing - the most effective method available, hair
testing identifies drugs taken within a 90-day period. Few
drug users can outsmart this one. At $65-$85 per test, it is
admittedly more expensive. But what value-while the other
tests end up costing about $10 per testing day, hair testing
amortizes to less than a dollar per covered day.
Whatever method you choose, use a government certified lab or
agency to conduct the tests.
4. Provide Drug Use
Train your managers and supervisors to recognize the signs and
symptoms of drug use. It’s not as obvious as you might
think-did you know that crumpled soda cans are often castoff
A number of corporate security companies offer strong training
programs. In my experience, managers greatly appreciate this
formal training. Most admit having had concerns about an
employee’s behavior, but weren’t sure how to proceed. Training
builds confidence and, backed by a written drug policy, allows
management to act.
5. Raise Awareness Among
Take it a step further-teach your employees the signs and
dangers of drug abuse, too. Encourage them to report potential
problems, and give them procedures for doing so. Post signs
declaring your company’s anti-drug policy.
Chances are, the only employees who object to drug screening
are those with a reason. According to a recent Gallup poll, 96
percent of employees favor drug screening in at least some
Regardless of your company’s size, industry, and location,
you’re not immune from the problems of drug abuse. Implement a
drug screening program now-a year from now, you’ll be glad you
Wayne Hovland is Vice President of Drug Screening at Aurico,
Inc., a national background and drug screening firm based in
Arlington Heights, IL. A Chicago police officer for 30 years,
he developed his department’s drug screening program. With 20
years experience in drug prevention and training, Mr. Hovland
consults with employers, public agencies, and law enforcement
groups nationwide. He may be reached at 847-255-1852,