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Published: June, 2007; Vol 4, Num 1

 

Program Supports Drug- and Alcohol-Free Worksites

By Jamie Becker

Most people would agree that safety is of paramount concern to those who work in and around the construction industry.  To help ensure that jobsites are safe, they need to be drug- and alcohol-free, and workers cannot be impaired while on the job.  Unfortunately, however, the industry currently has a higher rate of documented illicit drug use than any other specific industry tracked by the Department of Labor.

“A well run drug- and alcohol-free workplace policy and program is an important component of a safe jobsite,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck.  “However, a comprehensive program can take a great deal of time and be very expensive to administer, and the cost of duplicative testing is an unnecessary expense.  Having each contractor and local union administering its own program is wasteful and inefficient.  To address these problems, the Fund helped develop the Building Trades National Drug and Alcohol Program (BTNDAP).”

The program’s goals are providing safe construction worksites while eliminating duplicative testing, thereby saving time and reducing costs for the benefit of contractors and unions alike.  The BTNDAP achieves these goals by storing workers’ drug and alcohol test results in a nationwide, centralized database that all participating contractors can access.  Workers in the database are considered pre-qualified to work on participating member jobsites and can move between sites without having to endure repeated testing.

If members are eligible to work, the database lists to them as “current.”  If they are ineligible, they are listed as “not current.”  A contractor or local will be able to quickly identify who is eligible to work and who is not.

The program and policy have a single minimum testing standard which everyone who participates in the program must accept.  The testing is done in a carefully controlled and monitored manner.  The program is comprehensive and includes policies and procedures for:

  • employee assistance
  • supervisory training
  • employee education
  • identification of illegal/controlled drug use

In addition, a third party administrator (TPA) manages the program so contractors and locals do not have to worry about that responsibility, another benefit that will help save time and money.  Having a TPA also helps ensure confidentiality in the program.
 
Additional components of the BTNDAP:

  • Identify responsibilities of both the employer and the employee
  • Recognize reciprocity for existing programs
  • Encourage voluntary disclosure of substance abuse before someone tests positive
  • Establish a medical review officer process for non-negative (sometimes referred to as positive) tests
  • Standardize discipline and the return-to-duty process
  • Allow for more stringent owner requirements

In addition to promoting safety, a drug- and alcohol-free workplace program also benefits contractors by limiting liability, both that of the contractor as well as its employee who is responsible for enforcing safety or a drug-free workplace.  Second, a policy can actually save money for an employer through workers’ compensation insurance discounts. 

Participation in the BTNDAP can also help the Laborers’ local unions and their signatory contractors win projects and jobs.  For instance, all federal contracts in excess of $100,000 require a drug-free workplace program (DFWP), and Ohio is one state that now requires a contractor to have a DFWP program to bid on public projects.

In recent years, states have taken action to promote DFWPs by offering a workers’ compensation premium reduction to all employers who establish programs that meet the state’s requirements. Typically, the programs must have a written substance abuse policy that is distributed to all employees, conduct drug and alcohol testing and provide employee assistance programs for those testing positive  Currently, ten states offer discounts ranging from five to 20 percent. 

Businesses that do not have a testing program risk becoming a haven for drug and alcohol abusers.  Ninety-one percent of large American businesses have substance abuse policies compared to only five to ten percent of small- to medium-sized businesses. Smaller businesses usually cite cost as the main reason they do not maintain these programs.  At only $100 per year for database access and drug tests for $48 (including the test, confirmation testing (if necessary), medical review officer services and administration), the BTNDAP may be a cost-effective solution for smaller contractors to establish effective programs.  Interested contractors can register online.

It is important to note that the BTNDAP is not available where DOT regulations apply.  A future goal is to have a DOT-specific program, but in the meantime, any contractors who have employees who fall under DOT regulations will need to keep the DOT drug testing separate.

“The benefits of the BTNDAP are substantial,” Borck summarizes.  “It will help save time and money by eliminating duplicative testing, freeing up administrative time, limiting liability and helping employers save on workers’ compensation insurance. Participation will help Laborers and signatory contractors win projects and jobs.  Most important, it will help create a safer work environment for LIUNA members and their union co-workers.”  

More information about the BTNDAP is available at Safe Sites for Hard Hats . This website explains the program’s policy and mission and provides information for new users.  It also allows access to forms, handouts and a downloadable employee handbook.

LHSFNA Resources

The LHSFNA publishes a number of resources on drug and alcohol issues as well.  Among these are:  It’s Your Choice When You Know the Facts about Drugs and Alcohol (a 14-page pamphlet), Orientation to Worksite Drug and Alcohol Testing (an instructor’s guide and participant booklet for teaching classes) and two posters about alcohol awareness, A Drink is a Drink is a Drink and Stop Sign.  These are available online.