A number of states offer discounts on workers’ compensation insurance for drug-free workplace programs or effective safety programs and performance.

Drug-Free Workplace Discounts

According to LHSFNA Health Promotion Division Director Kitty Conlan, “Well-designed drug-free workplace programs are a means to help contractors address the issue of substance abuse while encouraging workers to change behaviors. As a result, several states allow workers’ comp discounts for companies that adopt these programs.”

Ohio is one state that allows discounts for drug-free workplace programs, but the option was seldom pursued until the state’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) offered a $200,000 grant for the development of a drug-free workplace training program.

“Suddenly, we had a lot of interest among employers,” says LIUNA Local 310 Secretary Treasurer John Kilbane, “and the Union Construction Industry Partnership (UCIP) started investigating options.” The UCIP is a three year-old labor-management collaboration among the building trades unions and contractor associations in the Cleveland area.

“When it came to drug-free workplace training, none of us knew where to start,” Kilbane explains, “but I knew the health and safety fund dealt with these issues. I contacted Kitty and discovered that the Fund had, on hand, materials and a curriculum. I was quite impressed, seeing how advanced LIUNA’s program is compared to anything that anyone else had to offer. UCIP decided, right there, to adopt the Fund’s materials for its program.”

In the Cleveland area, LIUNA Local 310 had been the first of the building trades unions to establish a drug-free workplace program through a collective bargaining agreement. “Other trades were reluctant, knowing the sensitivities around the issue,” says Kilbane. Now, however, based on the clarity of the LHSFNA program, 11 of the 16 trades have signed on to the UCIP program, and only the Carpenters, among the larger crafts, are not participating.

The program will require annual drug testing for all employees and random, computer-generated testing of 25 percent of employees sometime during each year. The tests will be urine tests, conducted at worksites.

In addition, the BWC program requires fours hours of annual training for supervisors and two hours for all rank-and-file members. Conlan and other members of the LHSFNA staff will direct the train-the-trainer sessions to establish the local capacity to conduct the on-going training of workers and supervisors. The program is scheduled to begin this month.

Currently, nine states-Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee-allow drug-free workplace discounts.

Safety Discounts

Another seven states-Alaska, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Texas and Wyoming-allow discounts for safety performance or for the establishment of safety programs.

“Improved safety performance doesn’t just happen,” says George Macaluso, Associate Director of the LHSFNA Occupational Safety and Health Division. “It’s the result of company and site-specific safety programs, joint labor-management safety committees, effective training, frequent walk-throughs and constant re-evaluation. That sounds like a lot, but, actually, it’s not that hard to do. Once an employer starts, if he’s in a state with discounts, his premiums will fall. Plus, the employer’s X-Mod will begin to drop, and that’ll lead to an even more substantial cut in premiums.”

It is also a fact that companies with good safety records gain private “good customer” discounts from their insurers.

Conlon and Macaluso are available to signatory employers to help design and implement programs that can garner drug-free workplace and safety discounts.

[Steve Clark]