The workplace is an effective venue for influencing drug-use behavior and shaping community norms for drug-free living. In 1998, more than 73 percent of all current drug users were employed full or part-time-more than 8.3 million workers. About 1.6 million full-time workers, aged 18-49, abuse both illicit drugs and alcohol.

Over the last decade, adoption of anti-drug programs in the private sector has produced a two-thirds reduction in the rate of positive drug test results-from 13.6 percent in 1988 to 4.7 percent in 1999. Within a comprehensive approach, drug testing has proven to be an effective tool not only to identify drug use before serious harm or accidents occur, but as a way to cut through the denial of many drug users which frequently impedes their ability to seek treatment.

The 1986 implementation of Executive Order No. 12564-Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs-introduced drug testing to the everyday workplace. Despite initial controversy over the reliability of testing, most opponents now concede that tests, when done properly, accurately identify recent drug use.

Types of Testing

1. Pre-job or Pre-employment testing-given before an offer of employment has been made.

2. For Cause or Reasonable Suspicion testing-given to an employee if suspected of using a prohibited drug; suspicion is usually based on behavior, conduct or appearance.

3. Post-accident testing-given to an employee after occurrence of an accident in which the employee’s actions may have caused or contributed to the accident.

4. Random testing-given to an employee selected by chance on an unannounced basis.

5. Return to duty testing-given to an employee before returning to duty following a positive test or a refusal to submit to testing.

Because most members of the LIUNA, especially those in construction, are subject to drug testing policies, the New England Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund (NELHSF) educates contractors, business managers and members on policy components. NELHSF works hand-in-hand with the New England Laborers’ Training Academies in Hopkinton (MA) and Pomfret (CT) to reach apprentices and members improving themselves through training. The Fund also helps write contract and company drug policies that respect the rights and confidentiality of Laborers and signatory employers in the New England region.

By educating LIUNA membership, the Fund is helping to lower the occurrence of positive tests and to ensure that those dealing with drug testing understand the procedures and components that comprise the screening process. The goal is to reduce and eliminate the use of illegal drugs and to discourage workers who use adulterants in an effort to mask recent drug use.

At last summer’s New England Regional Conference much of this was explained.

Laborers and apprentices may be subject to various types of tests (see graphic). Testing is performed using a urine sample or, sometimes, a hair or blood sample. Commonly, an on-site instant test or a lab-based test is used. Standard urine testing screens for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines and PCP (phencyclidine). Other drugs also may be screened, if allowed by the contract or testing policy.

Grounds for drug or alcohol testing vary on different jobsites, depending on whether the job is subject to federal or state regulations and what the union contract and employer’s testing policy state.

The New England Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund urges LIUNA members and their dependants who are experiencing the effects of substance abuse to contact the member assistance program in their area.

[Steve Clark]