Drug abuse in the workplace presents multiple challenges for employers, employees, and associated constituencies including; insurers, suppliers, clients, and shareholders.

With 75% of drug abusers in the US employed, representing 12.3M workers, taking a pro-active approach to the problem is not only a sound business decision, but required in order to remain competitive, as well as to provide a safe work environment for employees (1).

Perini is one of the Nation's largest contractors, with annual revenues in excess of $2 billion. As such, we are well aware of the need for a zero tolerance drug policy and an effective drug-testing program.

Construction is one of the most dangerous occupations in America.

The U.S. Department of Labor consistently reports the construction industry to have the highest number of workplace fatalities. For example, in 2004, the construction industry sector recorded 1,224 fatal work injuries, the most of any industry sector, an increase of 8 percent over the number reported in 2003. The increase was led by a jump in fatalities among specialty trade contractors from 629 in 2003 to 752 in 2004 (2).

As safety professionals, we are therefore constantly challenged to seek out innovative methods to reduce the number of on-the-job accidents. In this regard, drug testing is often an overlooked and unappreciated tool. Implemented properly, drug testing can significantly improve worksite safety.

Construction workers who abuse drugs cause more accidents, increase workers' compensation costs, create more rework, increase employee turnover rates, and can cause construction companies to lose their competitive edge.

While many if not most, larger contractors engage in some form of drug testing, the majority currently rely upon urine-based technologies. Unfortunately, this form of testing is becoming more and more unreliable.

Drug-abusing workers have found ways to "beat the test" by buying products off the Internet. Whether additives or substitute urine, these products ensure that they can go on abusing drugs without being detected. "Cheating" drug tests has become such a problem that U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced a bill, H.R. 4910, the National Drug Testing Integrity Act, on March 8th of 2006, to prohibit products that defraud workplace drug tests.

Alternative drug testing methods, combined with random drug testing procedures, provide promising management tools to manage drug abuse in the construction workplace.

The Importance of a Zero-Tolerance Drug Policy

Overall, 8–10% of workers are reported to abuse drugs (3). Construction has one of the highest drug abuse rates of any sector. Peers in this sector self report a 25% or higher abuse rate. The negative impacts of drug abuse are staggering. The economic cost of drug abuse in the United States is estimated to be over $180B, representing $8,000 to $10,000 per drug abuser each and every year (4). While there is no single line on corporate P&L statements, drug abuse affects multiple areas.

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