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(July 19, 2009) As I talk to employers about their workplace drug and alcohol testing programs I am frequently amazed when some tell me they don’t do post-accident or post-injury drug and alcohol testing. Why am I amazed by that? Because the greatest financial benefit from drug testing comes from post-accident testing. Post-accident drug testing puts you in position (or better position) to defeat a workers compensation claim. In some states (CO, MO) if there is a positive test YOU WIN!! In two states, (OK & UT) if you are positive for drug or alcohol use you aren’t even eligible for workers compensation.
But, employers who don’t test aren’t even in the game.
Unless required, there are two major reasons to drug test: first, to limit your liability and second, to make money by defeating workers compensation claims when an employee is positive. Most days, but especially in this economy, it is incredible that any employer would ignore a practice that will save money. Drug testing may be the only thing you can do to return money to the company’s bottom line.
How can this work? Typically, to defeat a workers compensation claim an employer must show two things: first, that the employee was intoxicated at the time of the injury and second that the intoxication caused or contributed to that injury. Ten state (CO, FL, GA, MO, NV, ND, OH, OK, TN, and UT) provide a presumption of both intoxication and cause thereby denying a workers compensation benefit to anyone testing positive; six additional states (AL, AR, KS, LA, TX, and VA) provide a presumption of intoxication leaving cause to be proved. New Mexico (10%) and Wisconsin (15% or $15,000 which ever is most) provide a specific automatic deduction if there is a positive drug or alcohol test.
These laws are in employers’ favor but employers are clearly not taking advantage. The numbers speak for themselves. There were approximately 40 million workplace drug tests conducted in 2007 but only about 56,000 were post-accident. Compare that to the fact that $54 billion was paid during the same time period in workers compensation claims while the National Council on Compensation Insurance says 38% to 50% of those claims involved a drug or alcohol issue. What’s 38% of $54 billion – more than $20 billion in potential savings
One should be careful to follow state law since some states specifically define post-accident testing and others limit testing to only situations where there is reasonable suspicion. Check our Issues Forum for details.