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7 Industries That Can Benefit From Workplace Drug Testing

Published on: March 10, 2017

Written by: Janet Russell.

Workplace drug use can prove costly for most businesses. Studies have revealed that employee drug abuse accounts for yearly losses ranging from $33 billion to $100 billion, which could have a huge impact on sales and business relationships. It is in this line that workplace drug testing has become an important procedure for any industry.

In order to curb the increasing workplace drug abuse problem, many industries have put in place workplace drug testing as a prerequisite for employment. With such testing being implemented, studies have shown that companies can see a 19 percent increase in productivity, less absenteeism, and reduced employee turnover.

In this article, we will take a look at the different industries that can benefit from workplace drug testing.

History of Workplace Drug Testing

Compulsory drug testing programs in the United States started in the mid-1980’s. It was part of the “war on drugs” by the Reagan and Bush administrations as a result of the March 1986 report of the President’s Commission on Organized Crime.

The agency recommended the formulation of policy statements by heads of all federal agencies and to implement guidelines and suitable drug testing programs to show the “utter unacceptability of drug abuse by federal employees.” This paved the way for Executive Order 12564 of September 1986 signed by President Ronald Reagan, which makes employee drug testing a government-wide policy.

The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 was implemented at the federal level. This law calls for all federal contractors and grantees to agree to provide a drug-free workplace to become qualified for contracts or grants from government agencies.

The transportation sector also put in place a drug testing program via the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991. Under this law, employers in the industry whose employees hold “safety sensitive” positions should implement drug-free workplace programs, which cover both drug and alcohol testing.

Taking its cue from the government sector, private companies implemented their own drug testing programs in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. However, pre-employment drug testing was more prevalent than random drug testing. In private sector companies that have no unions, drug testing can be required for applicants and/or employees.

Employers can have their workers tested for a variety of substances although some of them follow testing protocols. While subject to federal regulations, the disciplinary consequences of a positive test result are still governed by collective bargaining.

Reasons For Workplace Drug Testing

Under local, state, and federal laws, private employers can implement workplace drug testing. In reality, federal agencies assist companies in setting up such policies to ensure a drug-free work environment.

There are several reasons why private employers implement workplace drug testing:

employee office workplace drug testing


For most employers, the safety of the workforce should be their utmost concern. Implementing a drug testing program is one of the ways they can ensure a safe working environment.

When requiring its employees to operate heavy equipment, work with consumers, or do manual labor, the safety of everyone should be ensured. Testing applicants and current employees can help boost consumer confidence.


Drug testing in certain work environments is required by both state and federal regulations. Each state is responsible for regulating industries that require drug testing.

While it may not be required in a certain industry, companies administer drug testing to show their integrity. Any company naturally wants to demonstrate the performance and professionalism of their employees.

Worker’s Compensation

Some states are eligible for discounts and workers’ compensation benefits by complying with drug testing regulations. Heath care insurance providers also offer group discounts to companies that have workplace drug testing policies. In at least 30 states, laws make employees who violate workplace drug testing policies disqualified for unemployment compensation.

Benefits Of Workplace Drug Testing

Even if they are not required to implement workplace drug testing programs, many companies would still do so because of the potential benefits. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce revealed that 80% of the U.S. workforce work in small and medium-sized firms that have no drug testing policies and programs.

urine sample workplace drug testing

However, by implementing a drug testing program, companies would experience the following benefits:

Improved Safety

The most important reason for putting up a workplace drug testing program is to improve workplace safety and prevent unfortunate accidents. This is critical in safety-sensitive positions such as transportation, construction, healthcare, engineering and manufacturing. Drug testing can help prevent accidents among employees, customers, and other innocent people.

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The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) revealed that over 50% of workplace-related accidents are caused by substance abuse.

Reduced Crime

Workplace drug abuse can result to various crimes such as stolen property, violence, and fraudulent medical claims. Drug testing programs can help curtail any drug abuse and hopefully reduce crimes in the workplace as well.

Healthier Employees

An effective drug testing program can result to a healthier workplace as well as employees. They will also have less absences, fewer injuries, and in the process increased workplace morale.

Save Money

Price Tag IconWhile a drug testing program may entail expenses on the part of your company, having a drug testing program can result to long term benefits. Sources reveal that absenteeism, increased health care expenses, and decreased productivity can cost the company $1,000 per employee annually.

Increased Productivity

Workplace drug abuse can often affect the productivity of employees. With drug testing programs, there will be an increase in productivity. Employees will be more focused and show better attendance. A decrease in employee turnover may be expected as well.

Which Industries Require Drug Testing?

Drug abuse in the workplace can cost your company millions. Here are some of the industries that will benefit significantly from workplace drug testing:

1. Construction Industry

The construction industry has one of the highest rates of drug and alcohol abuse. It involves a lot of high-risk and safety-sensitive positions thereby increasing the likelihood of work-related accidents and injuries. For this reason, it is important to have workplace drug testing programs in place.

AON reveals that 40% of construction fatalities are related to substance abuse. The good news is that 71% of union members favor drug testing.

2. Transportation Industry

transportation industry drug testing

The transportation sector has the biggest impact in terms of public safety. Whether by rail, road, water, or air, the industry is responsible for moving people and products from one point to another.

The bad news is that alcohol and drug abuse has contributed a lot to transportation-related accidents per year. It is worth noting that 18.9% of truck drivers account for illicit drug use in the industry. For this reason, the U.S. Department of Transportation has made drug testing mandatory to all its employers and employees.

Workers in the industry have revealed that the following types of drug testing are common throughout the industry:

  • At Hiring (62.7%)
  • Random (52.5%)
  • Upon Suspicion (48.9%)
  • Post-Accident (58.8%)

Different employers in the transportation industry ranging from large international corporations to local contractors have put in place drug-free workplace programs to ensure a safe working environment and high employee productivity.

3. Manufacturing Industry

manufacturing industry drug testing

A study conducted by the U.S. government discovered that substance abuse is a huge problem in both durable and non-durable goods sector of the manufacturing industry. In both sectors, 15% of workers admitted to having used illegal drugs and about 7 percent are heavy alcohol drinkers based on figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Drug and alcohol abuse in the sector will not only endanger the workers and clients but also affect the reputation of the country as a manufacturer of high quality products. By keeping factories and manufacturing firms free from drug and alcohol abuse, the label “Made in America” will continue to be the symbol of high quality craftsmanship.

4. Hospitality Industry

hospitality industry drug testing

The hospitality sector – which includes hotels, motels, eating and drinking places, and other related firms – has some of the highest rates of alcohol and drug abuse. In the hotel/motel sector, 9.3 percent admitted to using illegal drugs in the past month and 17 percent admitted illegal drugs use in the last year.

Among workers in eating and drinking establishments, more than 16 percent admitted to illegal drugs use in the past month and 28 percent admitted to using illegal drugs in the last year.

Having a drug and alcohol free program in the workplace can contribute to a productive workforce and a safe workplace, which could result to increased profitability and success.

5. General Services Industry

general services drug testing

Employers have the wrong notion that substance abuse is common only in industries that have “safety-sensitive” positions, or jobs that require operating vehicles, machines, and tools. The truth of the matter is that general services companies also pay a huge cost for substance abuse.

This sector is the largest employer of people with “security-sensitive” jobs. They handle financial records, confidential information, and things that are privy to a company’s ideas or product plans. Errors made by the employee due to alcohol or substance abuse can have far-reaching consequences. For this reason, it is important for this sector to implement drug and alcohol free programs.

6. Retail Industry

retail industry drug testing

The success of the retail industry stems from customer satisfaction and loyalty, quality products, competitive pricing, and excellent customer service. However, the sector is a very competitive marketplace, that any dissatisfaction on the part of the shopper with the quality of service is tantamount to a lost business. For this reason, substance and alcohol abuse will not only hurt the security of the employee but also the profitability of their business.

According to a government study, workplace substance abuse is also a common problem in the retail industry. Among full-time retail employees aged 18 to 49 years old, 10.8 percent revealed that they used illicit drugs in the past month and 22 percent report that they have used illegal drugs the last year.

7. High Tech and Software Industry

high tech software industry drug testing

The high tech and software industry handle large amounts of information, data, and money in just one click of a mouse. In the industry, accuracy is important and the smallest mistake can have devastating consequences. Employees who abuse drug and alcohol can be detrimental to the success of the industry and will also become a serious threat to their co-employees and the company in general.

A drug and alcohol free workplace in the high tech and software industry will help maintain America’s status as a leader in the global technology revolution. The good news is that many firms in the industry have now realized the importance of a drug and alcohol free workplace that they have set in place their own workplace drug testing programs to boost their profitability and success.


With the increased rate of drug abuse in the workplace, companies and industries need to be more concerned about the welfare of the workforce. Because of this, workplace drug testing has never been as important as ever.

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