Marijuana, Alcohol and Drug Use Among the Manufacturing Workforce

Businesses in the US have always been concerned with the use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace. But now, with the social acceptability and legalization of marijuana use, most businesses, especially manufacturers, are faced with an increasing employee workplace challenge.

Of all drug users, it is estimated that 68.9% are employed and active in the workplace, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA). And unfortunately, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that 10% to 20% of work-related fatalities involved the use of drugs and alcohol. With the direct workers’ compensation costs of occupational injuries exceeding $1 billion per week, employers must consider how to prevent dangerous and costly impacts of drugs and alcohol in the workplace.

When an injury occurs as a result of drug or alcohol use, example cost repercussions include:

While there is an obvious concern with having workers on the job that are under the influence of drugs and alcohol, there is also a new concern over the use of marijuana outside the office. Currently, 10 states have legalized use of marijuana for recreational use and 33 states allow for medical marijuana usage. Marijuana usage is a larger employer concern because it is much more difficult to detect whether the usage was during work hours or non-work hours. Because marijuana is still federally illegal, it is often easiest to have an outright ban—but it is critical to understand your state’s laws. Often medical marijuana users are protected from the failure of an employer-mandated drug test. Disciplining or terminating a medical marijuana patient may result in a discrimination lawsuit.

What is most critical is to ensure that your manufacturing firm has a well-defined, documented and enforced Drug and Alcohol Policy that has been reviewed by legal and compliance experts. Two major principles to adhere to are equity and transparency.

Equity: You should be contracted with a third-party licensed drug testing facility that can independently assess your employees.

Transparency: Your plan should be effectively communicated to all employees with detailed reasons for the key components of the policy. This policy should be clear to any new employees upon or before hire.

As highlighted above, drug and alcohol use among your workforce can have costly impacts on your workers’ compensation plan. If you have developed a robust drug and alcohol policy at your firm that meets the above criteria, you should ensure that it is documented with your insurance carrier to receive credit on your workers’ compensation policy.