Substance Abuse in Safety-Sensitive Positions Leads to Higher Costs

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Substance abuse in the workplace is common, and although it can affect all businesses regardless of the industry, safety-sensitive positions experience a greater financial burden. The cost of substance abuse leads to higher insurance premiums, employee turnover, absenteeism, an increase in accidents, workers compensation claims, and errors, while also lowering employee productivity.

Due to the often-risky nature of the jobs in a safety-sensitive industry, such as oil & gas, petrochemical, or construction, workers are subject to a higher number of occupational injuries. The resulting high insurance costs are only increased further by the increased likelihood of substance abuse in a safety-sensitive industry vs. other industries.

Not only do employers have the burden of higher insurance and workers compensation rates, but the rising popularity of marijuana as a legal drug and the ever-growing opioid epidemic only continues to increase the likelihood of any accidents or fatalities occurring.

The construction and trucking industries are two of the largest safety-sensitive industries in the U.S., and they have higher incident rates than all other U.S. industries combined. According to the National Safety Council, 15% of construction workers struggle with substance abuse, a number nearly twice that of the national average. Although the construction industry reported the highest number of fatal injuries in 2016, with 991 fatalities, it did not have the highest reported fatal injury rate. The transportation industry far surpassed all other industries with more than 40% of injuries resulting in a fatality.

The average employee across all industries with an untreated substance abuse disorder costs their employer an average of $7,000 per year[1]in excess healthcare expenses, absenteeism, and turnover costs. Current Consulting narrowed this down in a recent whitepaper to only safety-sensitive industry employees and considered lost productivity, cost of replacement / training, risk of injury, death, and downtime at the facility. Once you factor in all the average costs of an employee with a drug abuse problem, the total annual cost of a substance-abusing employee in a safety sensitive industry could reach $164,000 on the low end or up to $1.7 million in a worst-case scenario.

The large potential cost for a substance-abusing employee is a result of the incredibly high cost of single incidents that cause downtime, lawsuits, and injuries in safety-sensitive industries. DISA believes a better measurement for the cost of substance abuse by an employee at an individual company is $35,000, or five times the all-industry average of $7,000 per year. This considers the higher cost of labor, time, and effort to train and replace manpower, and the potentially high cost of an on the job injury.

To better help the industry, DISA built a free cost of drug abuse calculator to help employers get an ideal cost estimate of the destructive impacts of substance abuse. This calculator uses the past two years of drug testing positivity data and your employee count to generate an estimated number of positive drug tests at your company if it started drug testing.

For example, a company with 500-employees in a safety-sensitive environment, that did not do drug testing, would see an estimated $360K in additional costs from drug abuse annually. DISA’s drug testing calculator also shows a projected number of positive tests by drug type (e.g. marijuana, cocaine, opioids), and by test type (e.g. pre-employment, random, etc.).

VP of Operations, David Eades, adds, “It is imperative that employers understand the impact of substance abuse and strive to implement a drug testing program that will deter employees from using. Any deterrent from drug abuse reduces workplace injuries, improves workplace safety and productivity, and decreases health care costs. Safety-sensitive industries are at a greater risk of the detrimental impacts from substance abuse. Employers must push to create a safe working environment that not only protects employees but prevents drug abuse.”

With DISA’s customized drug screening services you can better protect your company and prevent these significant ‘hidden losses’. Our solutions make it easy to hire the right people the first time, and thoroughly manage employee drug testing with the benefits of cutting-edge technology and best-in-business practices.

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About DISA Global Solutions

Founded in 1986, DISA is the industry-leading provider of employee screening and compliance services. Headquartered in Houston, with more than 35 offices throughout the U.S. and Canada, DISA’s comprehensive scope of services includes drug and alcohol testing, background check, occupational health, and transportation compliance. DISA assists employers in making informed staffing decisions while building a culture of safety in their workplace.

DISA Global Solutions aims to provide accurate and informative content for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein. Always consult with a professional or legal expert.