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How to Develop and Implement Drug-Free Workplace Policies

By: Dee Brown
2 Minute Read

Physicians and other healthcare professionals are known as champions of a healthy lifestyle for patients, but their own substance abuse and addiction rates are no different than the general population. Studies published by Current Opinion in Psychiatry, Critical Care Medicine, and The American Journal on Addictions have reported that healthcare providers demonstrate higher levels of opioid abuse, and 10-15 percent will misuse substances during their lifetime.

It’s important for practice administrators and human resources professionals to implement drug-free workplace policies to protect employees and patients while limiting potential liability and remaining compliant with government regulations.

With a clearer understanding of the multiple facets of an effective drug-free workplace policy, practice leaders can help build a safe and healthy environment.

Drug Testing Policies and Procedures

Physical testing for controlled substances is a necessary practice for any drug-free workplace policy, and there are three different types of testing procedures that should be outlined in your practice’s policy.

  1. Pre-employment testing: This is the most common type of drug testing and is typically completed before a candidate begins working. Both the verbal and written offer letter should state that the offer is contingent upon passing background, drug, and alcohol screenings. If a candidate were to fail a drug and alcohol screening, the offer could be rescinded.
  2. Random testing: This is an additional procedure necessary to ensure current employees are continually adhering to drug-free policies. Random testing is on a scheduled basis known only to HR where a percentage of employees are randomly chosen to be tested. Your drug screening provider can help establish notification procedures.
  3. Reasonable suspicion testing:This procedure is used when an employee exhibits certain behaviors that may be of concern. If there is reasonable suspicion that the employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, practice leaders can require same-day testing. Your drug screening provider can help establish this procedure.

Zero-Tolerance and Disciplinary Policies

Establishing strict disciplinary policies and procedures will provide a clear outline of how to handle positive results following random or reasonable suspicion testing. For practices that choose to take a zero-tolerance approach, the result would be immediate termination. For those who wish to take a softer approach, practice leaders may implement a second-chance policy and require rehabilitation for the employee.

Managers should be trained on all of these procedures upon implementation of the drug-free workplace policy, and employees should be aware of the potential consequences upon employment.

To learn more about this topic and hear tips on how to establish an effective drug-free workplace policy that suits your individual practice, Curi members are invited to listen to our June 2019 HR|Experts webinar, titled “The Importance of Drug-Free Workplace Policies.”

Dee Brown

Dee Brown is Curi’s on-call human resources consultant. Members may contact her directly at or 919-431-6096.

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