Drugs and Alcohol in Workplace a 'Major Problem' for Pa. Employers: Survey

One in five Pennsylvania workers claims to know someone who uses illegal drugs or alcohol on the job, according to a recent survey.

The survey, which was conducted for the nonprofit group Drug-Free Pennsylvania by the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College, polled 502 adult Pennsylvanians who work full- or part-time and polled 430 Pennsylvania employers that have a work force of less than 150.

The survey of employers shows that nearly two in three (64 percent) of managers and owners say that they are "very concerned" about drug and alcohol abuse among workers, which is second only to worker safety as a top concern. Employers responded that increased absenteeism and reduced productivity from alcohol abuse and increased health care costs and absenteeism related to drug abuse are problems for their companies.

"This survey shows that drug and alcohol abuse remains a major problem for Pennsylvania companies, jeopardizing the health and safety of workers and their colleagues, while also having a steep negative economic impact on Pennsylvania businesses," said state Health Secretary Dr. Calvin Johnson. "We all need to work together to find ways to keep our workplaces safe and drug- free."

Businesses Encouraged to Adopt Substance-Abuse Policies

A majority (58 percent) of the non-governmental employers surveyed have written drug-free workplace policies in place, although the likelihood of having a written drug-free workplace policy increases as the number of employees in the organization increases.

The survey shows that many employees at companies with written drug-free workplace policies believe those policies have a major impact on keeping people from abusing drugs and alcohol on the job. A sizeable plurality of these workers also believes worker safety has increased and employee drug use and absenteeism have decreased as a result of their organizations' drug-free workplace policies, according to the survey.

"I encourage employers to adopt comprehensive drug-free workplace programs and create businesses that are free of drug and alcohol abuse," Johnson said. "I also encourage those businesses to reach out to employees with drug and alcohol problems and help them overcome their problems, making them productive and healthy employees."

The essential elements of a comprehensive drug-free workplace program are:

  • A clearly written policy that is communicated to all employees;
  • Instituting a drug-testing program;
  • Providing supervisory training and employee education; and
  • Providing access to either an employee assistance program or community resources for addressing identified problems.

"Pennsylvania employers need to recognize that alcohol and drug abuse among their employees costs them millions of dollars each year and an inexpensive and effective way to combat this problem is by implementing a comprehensive drug-free workplace program," said Rob Quigley, executive director of Drug-Free Pennsylvania.

The Drug-Free Pennsylvania survey was funded through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

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