Why Construction Companies Need to Implement Regular Onsite Drug Testing

By William Bierlein

The construction industry is one of the least safe occupations in the market, with 71% of the workers more likely to have an injury compared to other sectors. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), in 2020 alone, 250,000 injuries needed medical attention, and there were 957 deaths, making construction the industry with the most significant number of preventable fatal injuries.

The unfortunate fact is that despite its high risks, the construction industry is among one of the top industries for alcohol and drug abuse. According to the US Department of Labor, people working in the construction industry are the second-highest consumers of illicit drugs at 15.1%, which is almost double the national average.

Construction sites are fast-paced, requiring heavy-duty equipment and other tasks requiring the worker to be alert at all times. Intoxicated workers on a construction site pose a threat to themselves, other people on the site, and the construction company at large. According to NCBI, accidents on the construction site are pretty costly, averaging around $4 million. In comparison, non-fatal days away injuries cost even more at $42,000 per case, which is higher than all private industries at $37,000.

Fortunately, implementing safety protocols and drug testing programs proves to be an effective way of improving workplace safety, saving the company the unnecessary costs associated with accidents on site. In this post, we will get into the finer details of why construction companies should consider implementing regular on-site drug testing.

Why Regular Alcohol and Drug Testing Is Necessary

The first thing to make your employees understand is that the drug tests are not aimed at weeding out law-breakers. The tests are only for enhancing on-site safety by identifying potential drug abusers who are likely to harm themselves or other workers on the site, jeopardizing the quality of work in the process.

While laws might vary, most states have laws that allow companies to enforce mandatory alcohol and drug screening without having to worry about obstacles such as violation of any rights or privacy issues. The drug tests are a win-win for everyone since the worker is not exposed to unnecessary risks while the company can complete projects without any delays or unnecessary expenses.

Accidents usually have a significant impact on the project. They can lead to expenses that add up to thousands of dollars from direct costs – medical bills, litigation, damages, regulatory fines, and indirect costs – hiring replacement workers, cost of corrective measures, and penalties for missing deadlines.

So, besides improving worker safety standards and enforcing a solid work ethic, introducing regular alcohol and drug tests is also good economics. OSHA estimates that construction companies save between $4 and $6 for every dollar they invest in safety programs. Another survey by NSC estimate that construction companies save $37,000 for each prevented injury and $1,390,000 for each prevented fatality.

Depending on drug testing supplies, the number of employees being tested, and laboratory involvement, the cost of implementing such programs can become a challenge for some construction companies. But, failing to execute any safety standards or screening programs is 200% to 300% more costly compared to investing in such programs. In case an accident happens, the consequences can quickly become more expensive than the time and money it would have cost to prevent it.

How To Implement Alcohol and Drug Tests in The Workplace

Implementing alcohol and drug tests can be achieved in several situations on the construction site: pre-placement – when you highly suspect drug use, post-placement and before returning to work after an alcohol or drug violation.

To roll out your own alcohol and drug tests, you need to follow these four key steps to ensure the process is effective.

Decide How and Why You Want to Test Your Workers

Before introducing the alcohol and drug screening program, you need to take your time to create a sensible policy that clearly outlines how the tests will be conducted. You could ask for pre-placement tests from potential employees or regular post-placement tests, especially after a drug-related incident.

For construction workers who will operate heavy equipment or are involved in other high-risk activities, it would be a good idea to implement random testing as well as regular tests to ensure they remain clean all the time.

Update the Worker Handbook

Once you understand why you need drug testing and how to implement the policy, the next step is to update your worker’s handbooks so that each person understands what to expect. You should also confirm that your drug test policy is fully compliant with employment laws in your state – otherwise, you might run into regulatory issues in the future.

Communicate With Your Workers

After publishing the new policy and updating the employee’s handbook, you should plan a forum where you can engage with the employees through question and answer sessions. This gives you an opportunity to clearly explain why the new policy is coming into effect, which is to keep the workers safe.

Additionally, it would be best if you allowed the workers to raise concerns or questions regarding the new drug testing policy. Ensure you answer these questions in a way that matters to the employees because you need to collect signatures from them to indicate that they fully agree to the new policy.

Be Prepared for Push-Back

Some of the workers might challenge the new drug policy, and you need to be prepared for push-back. It is important to note that those against the policy may not necessarily be drug abusers; it could be an issue with how the test is conducted.

For example, some people could feel embarrassed when you request urine samples, while others might be against a collection of hair or saliva samples. All these concerns are why it’s important to remain honest and open about the testing procedures and how the samples will be used and disposed of.

Common Drug Testing Methods for The Construction Industry

Since the construction industry tops the list for alcohol and drug abuse as well as a list of most dangerous jobs, implementing regular drug screening does more good than harm on the site. However, with many drug testing methods available, it is not always clear which option will best meet the requirements of your company.

Before committing to a specific drug testing method, it is essential to understand the advantage and disadvantages of each process before making decisions on future drug test policies. For safety-critical industries like construction, the focus should be on a test kit that tells you if a worker is currently under the influence of drugs.

Saliva Testing

Saliva drug test, also known as a mouth swab drug test, is the most preferred test option in the construction industry. The test is quick, convenient, and highly effective in showing if an individual has any traces of drugs at the time the test is conducted. In most cases, it shows traces of drug use as recent as an hour ago and is not prone to contamination.

Saliva testing only detects drug use within the past 72 hours, which is a great way to know if a worker is a chronic drug abuser but not so good at catching sporadic drug users. Some state laws are against saliva drug tests, so ensure you are legally allowed to perform the test before implementation.

Urine Testing

Urine testing is a popular drug screening option since it’s a cost-effective and reliable way of testing for drugs with instant results. Unlike mouth swab testing, which is more suitable for sensitive environments, urine testing works better in workplaces that perform random drug tests.

Urine tests are also ineffective for on-site drug tests since they can’t detect drug use within the last 48 hours. It also requires a private room and a handler of the same sex as the worker, which adds up expenses. While there are many myths about how people can cheat on urine tests, the truth is that urinalysis is very accurate and nearly impossible to cheat.

In fact, if a worker tries to cheat, it will result in a negative dilute test result which is a clear signal to the lab that the worker is trying to cheat.

Hair Follicle Drug Test

This testing method is less common than urine and saliva tests, but it is more effective than the two. It’s impossible to cheat a hair follicle drug test because it’s done in plain view and also has a detection period of up to three months. This makes it ideal for identifying random drug use and is also highly effective during pre-employment drug screening.

The main drawback of the hair follicle test is that it requires a small cut sample, and some employees might not allow you to collect samples. It is similar to urine tests in that it is not an effective rapid drug test method but is more expensive.

Get it Right with Help from Drug Test Professionals.

Alcohol and drug abuse screening is an essential tool in the construction industry for ensuring everyone at the site is safe. For any construction company that is serious about the safety of their employees, implementing alcohol and drug tests should be a serious consideration.

Saliva testing is one of the more popular because it’s an instant drug test method, followed by urine testing for random on-site and pre-employment drug tests.

Feel free to visit our page today to learn more about alcohol drug testing methods and why drug tests are essential for every construction company.