There's No Summer Vacation from Drug-Free Workplace Policies

The advent of summer typically entails an influx of seasonal workers to area businesses and worksites, but that doesn't mean that employers should become lax in their drug-testing policies for these temporary workers.

Although these employees may be temporary, Drug Free Pennsylvania is reminding employers of the importance of keeping these workers, and all permanent employees, drug-free. One in 10 employees abuse illegal drugs or alcohol, according to the agency, and the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that nearly 17 percent of young adults in Pennsylvania, aged 18-25, had engaged in illicit drug use in the previous month. Approximately 44 percent had reported binging on alcohol in the previous month.

"Seasonal workers are not exempt from these disturbing statistics," warns Beth Winters, executive director and general counsel to Drug Free Pennsylvania.

Seasonal workers' failure to follow a company drug policy may have negative consequences for any company. Substance abuse increases absenteeism and tardiness, on-site accidents and mistakes. To minimize losses, drug-free workplace policies should apply equally to part-time and full-time, short-term and long-term employees.

"A well-written, up-to-date policy that details a company's drug testing protocols and consequences for violations is an essential first step," Winters says. "It's an important step for all companies - regardless of size - to take."

While any business is potentially affected by employee drug and alcohol abuse, small businesses appear to be at the greatest risk. Drug Free Pennsylvania's 2003 survey of more than 450 businesses statewide found that while 94 percent of large companies have drug-free policies, only 50 percent of small businesses have them. Smaller businesses also tend to offer less training and drug assessment or counseling services, as well as fewer pre-employment drug tests.

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