Employee drug testing – do you know what’s required for your business?

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Canadian employers often end up wading into muddy waters when attempting to address marijuana in the workplace which is why it’s essential HR professionals don’t rely on a one-size-fits-all policy.
Instead, organizations must consider what’s appropriate in their own unique environment. Here, industry expert Tim Thoelecke explains:
 Drug use today poses a serious threat to employee safety and productivity and illicit drug use often results in greater absenteeism, decreased productivity, and more.  In fact an estimated 23.9 million Americans currently use illicit drugs.  Two-thirds of those are employed and working somewhere. And with more relaxed attitudes toward marijuana (and legalization in many states), many businesses just aren’t sure what is the best for them. 
Smaller businesses are the most vulnerable. For example, the percentage of impaired workers is higher in small businesses (fewer than 500 employees), and so is the cost of worker’s comp, time lost, inventory shrinkage and accidents.  But it’s more than that.  Consider the legal liabilities (or dissatisfied customers) when work is not performed correctly.  Consider lost time, money, and other resources lost to fix errors. 
That’s why it’s imperative to have an effective drug testing policy.  A written drug policy should reflect the type of business you’re in. 
Here is a very general breakdown with recommendations:
Towing companies, school bus drivers, movers, trucking companies - Companies whose employees have Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDLs) fall under the authority of the U.S. Department of Transportation. They are required by law to have a drug testing program. The DOT has several modes, but most fall under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Each year 50% must undergo random drug testing, and 10% must be randomly tested for alcohol.
Construction, contractors, plumbers, electricians, roofers, warehouse workers, fork lift operators, manufacturers – Safety is of utmost importance in these types of businesses as those under the influence can harm not only themselves, but their co-workers as well. On-the-job injuries are the biggest concern when businesses consider a drug testing program.  
That’s why with these types of businesses, we recommend that they more-or-less model what the DOT requires of truck drivers, airline pilots, and rail employees: a program that includes pre-employment, post-accident, reasonable suspicion and random drug testing.
Restaurants, retail and other businesses that handle cash – Drug testing helps reduce turnover, reduce pilferage, improve safety and reduce worker’s comp premiums and claims.  In fact, up to 80% of losses from theft, pilferage and inventory shrinkage in the workplace come from substance-abuse employees, far more than shoplifters or burglars.  Restaurants are particularly vulnerable if they don’t have a drug testing program in place as often word spreads and the absence of a drug testing program tells abusers a company is a good place to hide. With safety less of an issue, a pre-employment drug test and criminal background check will be enough for most employers.

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  • Mike Morawiec on 2015-12-09 11:21:15 AM

    This does not relate to the Canadian workplace and is not helpful unless you have a US division.

  • Larry Dawson on 2015-12-09 1:48:35 PM

    Informative, but this is an American based advice column. In Canada, especially in unionized workplaces, random drug testing has been ruled to be too invasive. Tests can be demanded after an accident or a near-miss, but other than occupations where no degree of impairment is tolerated - such as truck drivers, school bus operators - the random approach is not allowed.

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