An Investment In Your Employees, Your Company, Your Future

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

The vast majority of drug users are employed, and when they arrive for work, they don't leave their problems at the door. Of the 17.2 million illicit drug users aged 18 or older in 2005, 12.9 million (74.8 percent) were employed either full or part time. Furthermore, research indicates that between 10 and 20 percent of the nation's workers who die on the job test positive for alcohol or other drugs. In fact, industries with the highest rates of drug use are the same as those at a high risk for occupational injuries, such as construction, mining, manufacturing and wholesale.

OSHA recognizes that impairment by drug or alcohol use can constitute an avoidable workplace hazard and that drug-free workplace programs can help improve worker safety and health and add value to American businesses. OSHA strongly supports comprehensive drug-free workforce programs, especially within certain workplace environments, such as those involving safety-sensitive duties like operating machinery.

A comprehensive drug-free workforce approach includes five components—a policy, supervisor training, employee education, employee assistance, and drug testing. Such programs, especially when drug testing is included, must be reasonable and take into consideration employee rights to privacy.

OSHA understands that many workers with substance abuse problems can be returned safely to the workplace provided they have access to appropriate treatment, continuing care and supportive services.

Although not required by OSHA, drug-free workplace programs are natural compliments to other initiatives that help ensure safe and healthy workplaces and add value to America’s businesses and communities.

OSHA works closely with the US Department of Labor’s Working Partners for an Alcohol- and Drug-Free Workplace program to help employers ensure their health and safety plans are enhanced through workplace drug prevention. In particular, OSHA and Working Partners strive to raise awareness about the impact drugs and alcohol have on the workplace and provide information on how to establish drug-free workplace programs. A particular focus is placed on small businesses, since they are less likely than their larger counterparts to have mechanisms in place to prevent workplace substance abuse—despite being more likely to suffer from its negative impact.

Also, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Division of Workplace Programs provides guidance for employers on workplace drug-testing issues, and its website provides a range of information about workplace wellness issues, including drugs and alcohol.