As an employer, you have a duty to protect the health and safety of your employees in the workplace. With drug use and abuse constantly making headlines, the need for employers to help combat drug abuse has never been greater. Early intervention and efforts to limit drug use and abuse can be successful in protecting the health and safety of workers and in helping those suffering from drug addiction get access to treatment. From zero-tolerance policies and drug screening to training for supervisors and accessible treatment options, here are just a few steps that employers can take to help combat drug use in the workplace.

Everyone suffers

Drug use impairs the decision-making abilities of employees and can create physical impairments as well. In the workplace, this combination can be deadly. OSHA reports that 10-20% of American workers who die on the job have a positive post-mortem test result for drugs or alcohol. To make things even worse, drug use rates are highest among those in the most dangerous and physically demanding occupations, like construction and mining.

Not only do those working under the influence pose a physical danger to themselves and others, they can also cost your business money and impact your bottom line. Those who regularly work under the influence of drugs or alcohol have poorer work performance, change jobs more frequently, have more issues with tardiness and attendance, have lower productivity, and are more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim than their counterparts. All of these reasons and more should motivate companies to take steps to reduce drug use amongst their workforce.

Get it in writing

The first step that employers should take to lessen the impact of drug use in the workplace is adopting and implementing a zero-tolerance drug use policy. To be effective and more binding, your policy must be detailed and informative and you should make sure that all employees sign an acknowledgement of receipt of the policy to be included in their employee file.

Your drug use policy should include any disciplinary actions associated with use, information about any drug abuse assistance programs offered, the employee’s rights to confidentiality, and information about any mandatory drug testing performed by the company. To make your policy even more effective, you may also include educational videos about the impacts of drug use in the workplace, brochures or other printed materials about substance abuse, or even adopt a drug awareness day. Check out Marijuana Legalization for tips on how to a zero-tolerance policy can help protect your workplace from the dangers of drug abuse.


Drug testing in the workplace can be an effective deterrent to substance abuse that also helps maintain a safe working environment. While your drug testing program can be tailored to fit the needs of your business and the laws of your state, a comprehensive program usually includes pre-employment, random, post-accident, and reasonable suspicion testing.

With the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration estimating that nearly 70% of all adult drug users are actively employed, proactive efforts on the part of businesses are crucial to ensuring the safety of employees in the workplace. Drug testing programs help minimize the risk of hiring new employees who are actively using drugs, help curb employee health care costs, and reduce the likelihood of accidents in the workplace. The drug-free workplace environment that is promoted through a comprehensive testing program promotes a more positive culture of safety, productivity, and professionalism. Read Ohio BWC Opioid Workplace Safety Pilot Program to learn more about the importance of setting up a drug testing program and how you can get financial assistance in establishing your program.

Keep an eye out

Addiction may not always be obvious, but you should work with your managers to help them spot the warning signs of drug use and abuse. Additionally, all employees should be given training on what to look for so that they can spot the symptoms of addiction in their co-workers.

While drugs have different effects on people, there are some common symptoms and signs that can be an indication of drug use, including frequent accidents, erratic behavior, slurred speech, extreme mood swings, paranoia, glassy eyes, and frequent absenteeism.

While not all of these symptoms are necessarily the result of drug use, employees and managers should be encouraged to report any suspicious activity to a member of the safety team or the human resources manager. Remind employees that the impact of reporting is far less than the potentially deadly impact of staying silent. By reporting, employees can help prevent accidents and help their co-workers get access to the treatment that they need. To learn more about the benefits of educating employees on the warning signs of drug abuse, read How to Establish a Drug-Free Safety Program with the Ohio BWC.

Provide assistance

Finally, one of the most effective ways to deal with drug abuse in the workplace is to establish an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs can be operated in-house by a drug addiction counselor or you can partner with a drug addiction assistance provider in your area.

EAPs are confidential and provide necessary and reasonable assistance to employees to make it possible for an employee dealing with addiction to remain in, or return to, the workplace. These programs can provide employees with assistance on a whole range of personal difficulties resulting from their drug use, including the actual substance abuse issues, mental and emotional health problems, care concerns, financial issues, and marital and family issues. The BWC’s Drug Safety Program emphasizes the importance of EAPs for employers who want to limit the usage of drugs and alcohol in the workplace.

Your partner in safety

Keeping your workforce safe is priority one for your company. Sheakley can help you develop better policies and provide assistance with developing safety programs to help you combat the use of drugs and other substances in the workplace. Our experts are here to keep your employees and your business safe. Sheakley’s Workforce Management Services experts provide complete safety resources for your company.

Get your free safety consultation today with an expert from Sheakley. Stay up-to-date on all things Sheakley by subscribing to our blog and following us on social media. Join in the discussion by commenting below.