IN RESPONSE TO EVER-INCREASING INSURANCE premiums and scrutiny on jobsite safety, many builders are now examining ways to step up their drug-testing efforts to include random testing of their full work-force. “The No. 1 reason why employers in the construction industry drug test employees and job applicants is to promote the safety of their workers and customers,” says Peter Philidus, chairman and CEO of Avitar, a Canton, Mass.-based developer of on-site oral drug-testing products. While many companies use drug testing as part of their pre-employment procedures, studies by Avitar have shown that random testing reduces drug use by up to three times.

A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that, when examining workers ages 18 to 49 by occupation and industry categorization, construction fell among the industry categories with the highest estimated number of current illicit drug and heavy alcohol users. Their research has shown that while an average of 10 percent of employees in any U.S. workplace abuse drugs, the construction industry numbers greatly exceed that, ranging from 12 percent to 20 percent in some areas.

And, there is a direct correlation between employee drug use and a company's bottom line. As many as 65 percent of accidents on the job can be linked to drug abuse, as can 38 percent to 50 percent of all workers compensation claims, according to reports from the National Council on Compensation Insurance, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based company that manages the nation's largest database of workers compensation insurance information. SAMHSA reports that employees who abuse drugs file three to five times the number of workers compensation claims.

Toll Brothers, for example, is in the process of incorporating a random drug-testing program using Avitar's disposable product, called ORALscreen, which detects 99 percent of the drugs commonly abused in the workplace and delivers results in five to 15 minutes without the need for medical personnel to administer the test.

Source: SAMHSA, Office Of Applied Studies, National Household Survey On Drug Abuse, 2000 And 2001.