Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why Van Buren County Should Care About Having Drug-Free Workplaces

Drug-Free Workplaces are important because substance abuse in the workplace is a widespread problem.  Alcohol and other drug abuse is widespread in our society.  It affects us all in many ways.  Although national, state and local efforts have begun to show encouraging results, the problem of alcohol and other drug abuse remains a serious problem.  No workplace is immune.  According to the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health done by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 74.9 percent of all adult illicit drug users are employed full or part time.  It was also found in this same survey that most binge and heavy alcohol users are also employed full or part time.

Substance abusing employees often do not make good employees.  Studies show that, compared with non-substance abusers, they are more likely to change jobs frequently; be late to or absent from work; be less productive employees; be involved in a workplace accident and file a workers’ compensation claim. 

Workplace substance abuse can also have a serious effect on people other than the abuser.  For example, some studies ( suggest that working alongside a substance abuser can reduce non-abusers’ morale and productivity.  It also is quite common for substance abusing workers who are involved in workplace accidents to injure other people (rather than themselves), especially if they work in safety-sensitive industries, such as the transportation or construction industry. 

Employers who have implemented drug-free workplace programs have important experiences to share (Joel Bennett and Wayne E.K. Lehman. 2003. Preventing Workplace Substance Abuse: Beyond Drug Testing to Wellness. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.):
·   Employers with successful drug-free workplace programs report improvements in morale and productivity and decreases in absenteeism, accidents, downtime, turnover and theft.
·   Employers with longstanding programs report better health status among, and decreased use of medical benefits by, many employees and family members.
·   Some organizations with drug-free workplace programs qualify for incentives, such as decreased costs for workers’ compensation and other kinds of insurance. (U.S. Department of Labor. “Florida State Law: Drug Free Workplace Act.”)
·   Employers find that employees, employee representatives and unions often welcome drug-free workplace programs.  If employers do not have a program the employees may be wondering why.  (Robert R. Bonds and Effie Bastes. 1999. “A Peer-Professional Team Intervention Approach in the Treatment of Drug and Alcohol Problems in the Workplace.” Paper presented at the International Union of Railways World Conference on Occupational Health and Safety, September 23.)

The Collaboration between SEIDA, Southeast Iowa Occupational Health Services and Van Buren County SAFE Coalition would like to encourage all Van Buren County residents, workers and businesses to find out the facts about Drug-Free Workplaces and be informed.  If you are interested in implementing a Drug-Free Workplace Policy at your business please contact the SAFE Coalition at 319-293-6412 or

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