Drug use has become a common problem in the modern workplace. An effective program designed to eliminate this safety hazard will earn both management and employee support if both parties are involved in its design, review, and enforcement. In the long run, everyone will come out ahead.

Pre-employment drug screening, random employee testing, and incident investigation drug-testing programs have been implemented in about 80 percent of manufacturing and construction companies as part of an overall drug-free workplace program, according to recent surveys. That’s not surprising, considering the benefits: improved safety, morale, and productivity.

Here are six steps to setting up a successful program:


It’s important to have clearly defined goals — perhaps improving safety, attracting a better caliber of worker, or improving productivity. With these goals in mind you can design a program for pre-employment, incident investigation, for-cause and/or random employee testing. Employee assistance programs can be included as an employee benefit. To gain company-wide support and improve morale, your program should stress employee involvement; procedural rules that are clear, fair, and consistently applied; and confidentiality.

Assessing needs

Program options will vary according to the potential impact of drug use on your business (loss of profits, increased theft, pilferage, medical claims, workers’ comp claims, and legal action), on coworkers (safety, workload, employee morale), and key employees (in safety- or security-sensitive jobs). Carefully assess the potential for problems in these areas.

Developing a policy

It’s best to involve supervisors, employees, and union representatives when drafting this legal document. Regularly review your policy with the assistance of an attorney and update it as needed. A sound policy includes:

Objectives — List specific reasons for the program, such as employee safety, reduced pilferage, or increased productivity. Make sure to consider management and worker points of view.

Expectations and prohibitions — Prohibited substances should be clearly identified. Specify expected employee behavior, unacceptable behavior with regard to illegal and prescription drugs, circumstances that require drug testing, and procedures to be used.

Consequences and appeals — Specify the consequences of policy violation, procedures for determining violations, and the consequences of refusing a drug test. Clearly define the appeals process.

Benefits and assurances — Communicate clearly how requests for help will be handled, and under what circumstances treatment or other assistance can be offered to an employee. Address in detail the issue of employee confidentiality, as well as how you intend to implement the program with fairness and consistency.

Drug testing — Whether you conduct drug testing on-site or use the services of a lab is a matter of time and cost. On-site testing — using products such as Jant Pharmacal’s Accutest® line of tests — provides results in three to eight minutes, allowing for immediate action. When initial drug screens are part of an incident investigation, for example, you can safely send employees with negative results back to work while holding out those with positive results for confirmation. A positive result must be confirmed by GC/MS (gas chromatography and mass spectrometry).

Typically, a lab requires up to three days for test results and costs much more than on-site testing, including confirmation of presumed positive results. Whenever using a lab for testing or confirmation, it’s advisable to use a NIDA certified lab.

Educating employees

Employee support is the most important factor in the success of your program. Education nurtures cooperation, creating a sense that “We’re all in this together.” It encourages employees to buy into the program, and it has benefits that extend beyond the workplace — dispelling myths by acknowledging the impact of substance abuse on friends, family members, and coworkers, as well as giving information on treatment options.

Training supervisors

It’s important for supervisors to realize the pivotal role they play. They must fully understand your program and policy, including the reasons for it and details of drug-testing procedures. This enables them to explain the program to employees and get their buy-in. Supervisors must be able to refer employees to resources for help and information within and outside the company. But they shouldn’t cover up for employees, attempt to provide substance abuse counseling, or try to solve a substance abuse problem.

Developing EAPs

Employee assistance programs allow employees to confidentially receive assistance to resolve personal problems, including, but not confined to, drug and alcohol abuse. One of the main benefits of an EAP is early intervention: providing the chance to address problems before they crop up at work. This usually reduces the need for time away from the job. Companies can choose to set up an in-house EAP or contract with an EAP services provider.

Jack L. Tawfik is director of Jant Pharmacal Corp. Jant Pharmacal was established in 1986. Its products include a comprehensive line of rapid immuno-diagnostic tests for clinical, consumer and workplace applications. Jant Pharmacal offers an extensive line of rapid on-site drug and alcohol tests. Its most recent addition to this category is the Accutest DrugCheck cup, a new one-step product specifically designed for the occupational setting, which eliminates the need for urine handling.