The Importance of Employee Drug Screenings & Tests

by Ellie Williams
Employee substance abuse can damage your company's reputation and finances.

Employee substance abuse can damage your company's reputation and finances.

If just one of your employees has a drug problem, it could have a disastrous effect on your organization and threaten the safety of both employees and customers. A companywide drug screening policy can help you identify workers with drug problems before you hire them. A policy will help protect your staff, your clients, your reputation and your bottom line.

Legal Concerns

Some companies are required to administer employee drug tests under certain federal laws. Employers regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, for example, are required to test employees for drugs. This mandate applies to companies in fields such as the airline industry, railroads and other public transportation. In other industries, hiring someone with a drug problem can be a liability and possibly lead to legal action if the employee behaves illegally or inappropriately. For example, if the employee works with children, the elderly or patients and threatens their safety, his employer could face lawsuits or other legal consequences.


Screening employees for drug use protects both other employees and the public, especially in workplaces where employees operate heavy machinery or make life-and-death decisions. If a healthcare professional works while under the influence, for example, he could misdiagnose a patient, administer the wrong medication, or make a mistake during a medical procedure and jeopardize the patient’s life. A truck driver could cause a car accident and endanger himself and other drivers. A repair technician could overlook faulty equipment that might cause a fire or other potentially fatal incident.


Employee substance abuse can take a catastrophic financial toll on businesses. These workers have significantly higher absenteeism and turnover rates. Employers must absorb the cost of training them only to start the hiring process all over again. Employees who use drugs also have higher rates of workplace injuries, possibly leading to costly worker’s compensation claims. In addition, employees who abuse drugs have 33 percent lower productivity, as documented in a report sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Small Business Association and Office of National Drug Control Policy.


A single employee with a drug problem can make your entire organization look bad. If his drug use leads to on-the-job mistakes -- such as mishandling a client’s money, making an error during a medical procedure or causing an automobile accident -- this may tarnish your entire company’s image. Clients may be wary of doing business with you, even if you’ve had no other complaints. People might also think you have little concern for customer or public safety if you didn’t take the time to thoroughly screen applicants before hiring them.

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