Close to fifteen million full-time employees in the United States are heavy drinkers. Their predilection for alcohol exacts a high cost on the workplace as employees who drink a lot also tend to miss work, suffer from health problems, and put themselves and others at risk. According to studies, 14 million workdays are lost to absences, illnesses, or hangovers caused by alcohol.
Alcohol abuse is a problem for employers, but they’re still not testing for it. If you are an employer and your workplace does not already test for alcohol, it’s time to consider adding alcohol testing to your company policy. Laws for alcohol testing vary from state to state (so be sure to consult your state laws before implementing any new policy) but in many states a safe bet is to follow the DOT program for alcohol testing. DOT regulated companies are required to test for alcohol in their random testing program, reasonable suspicion testing, post-accident testing, and follow-up testing. An initial screening test should be performed, and can be taken with any DOT approved alcohol screening devices for saliva or breath. If that test is positive, the results must be confirmed with an EBT test by a trained professional. A confirmation test for alcohol must then be conducted fifteen minutes after a positive screening test, and must be performed with an EBT and by a trained breath alcohol technician.
Testing for alcohol is just one step you can take to combat alcohol problems in the workplace. Another effective way is to establish an Employee Assistance Program (EAP.) These confidential services provide assessment, short-term counseling, and referral of employees suffering from alcohol related problems. Employers can also reduce the effects of alcohol abuse in the workplace by:
- Providing health benefits that provide coverage for substance abuse disorders
- Implementing written substance abuse policies
- Reducing stigma in the workplace
- Offering company wellness programs to educate employees about productivity and health risks created by substance abuse
Employers who make use of an Employee Assistance Program report improvements in morale, absenteeism, accidents, downtime, turnover, and even theft. If your workplace is suffering from alcohol abuse, it may be time to consider implementing alcohol testing and/or an EAP. Your workers will thank you.