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Substance abuse:?Workplace safety

October 8, 2012
By CATHY BROWNFIELD - Staff Writer , Salem News

LISBON - Nita works at a distribution center. She works hard to support herself and to enjoy her life, but sometimes it's a struggle to make ends meet. She keeps working hard because she is proud of being self-sufficient. She uses high lifts and other heavy equipment to stock received merchandise. At her workplace if you have an "incident" it's automatic: drug test and time off. Nita didn't judge her distance right and bumped a bin. No damage was done, but could have occurred. She was embarrassed. She took the drug test. It's policy. But she's too much about living her life and being healthy. She doesn't abuse drugs or alcohol. It was simply an "incident," end of story. And her employer, going through the procedure learned that.

Then there is Clyde, the lead man in his department. He was on a combination of drugs including meth. But he almost ran over another employee with a heavy piece of machinery. He has to go to a clinic-court ordered-because he is not trusted to take his medications while he is in his recovery program. When he's clean he will be subject to random drug tests.

Accidents happen, as with Nita. But making choices, lifestyle choices like abusing drugs and going to the workplace under their influence is not an accident. It's a time bomb waiting to go off. Do you ever wonder what you would feel like if, for the rest of your life, you had to carry the knowledge that your decision to go to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol irreparably injured someone, disabled them or even caused their death? And how does abuse in the workplace affect the employer?

If that isn't scary enough, how many people are drug- or alcohol-impaired behind the steering wheel of a car? Is defensive driving enough?

The U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says, "Of the 17.2 million illicit drug users age 18 or older in 2005, 12.9 million (74.8 percent) were employed either full or part time10 to 20 percent of the nation's workers who die on the job test positive for alcohol or other drugs" In 2009, 67 percent of drug users 18 or older were employed. One in six unemployed workers was twice as likely to report current drug use.

OSHA recognizes the impairment by drug or alcohol use can constitute an avoidable workplace hazard and that drug free workplace programs can help improve worker safety and health and add value to American businesses.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy at The White House states that "The economic cost of drug abuse in the U.S. was estimated at $193 billion in 2007: $120 billion in lost productivity, $11 billion in healthcare costs, and $61 billion in criminal justice costs.

Full time workers abusing drugs are more likely to jump from job to job over a short period of time, are more likely to miss work due to illness or injury and are more likely to skip work. That is costly for everyone.

Ohio Bureau of Worker's Compensation announced Monday that $300,000 in grants was awarded in August for safety intervention in the workplace.

"Ohio's private and public employers are eligible for safety intervention grants which include 2-to-1 matching funds up to a maximum of $40,000 from BWC. Quarterly data reports and follow-up case studies help BWC determine the effectiveness of employers safety interventions and establish best practices," the agency advised.

Substance abuse is a thief. It ruins lives. It destroys families. However, with a little help, a person can recover from its clutches and rebuild his or her life. For more information about making your business a drug-free workplace or for treatment programs for addiction, contact Family Recovery Center at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail,

FRC promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and other mental health issues. The agency is funded in part by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and United Way of Northern Columbiana County.



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