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A tight labor market influences drug testing policies



In August 2021, an unprecedented 4.3 million American workers quit their jobs – a 20% increase from August 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the construction industry, where there was a shortage of labor before the covid-19 pandemic, growth in new home construction and improvement projects has increased the demand for workers. To keep pace with that demand, construction companies will need to hire 430,000 workers this year and 1 million more over the next two years, according to a July 2021 report from the Associated Builders and Contractors, a Washington-based trade association.

Desperate . For workers, many companies are reconsidering their hiring processes, and some are compromising on previous standards, relaxing drug testing as the popularity and legality of recreational marijuana use continue to grow, say insurance and security sources.

"It's definitely an area. of concern, especially as more and more states move toward legalizing marijuana on both a medical and recreational basis, ”said Matt Zender, senior vice president, workers comp strategy, at AmTrust Financial Services Inc., based in Monterey, California.

The COVID-1

9 pandemic did not dampen the workforce's positivity for drug testing for marijuana, which continued to increase last year in the U.S. general workforce, according to data from Secaucus, New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics. In the construction industry, the degree of positivity for marijuana increased from 2.2% in 2019 to 2.5% in 2020.

The data also show that states with regulations on recreational marijuana have higher positivity, and the differences from year to year between states that decriminalized recreational marijuana and states with medical or no legalization regulations have grown.

"There are parts of the construction industry that are backing away from drug testing for two reasons," said Carl Heinlein, senior security consultant at American Contractors Insurance Group in Wexford, Pennsylvania. "Sure, getting employees into the projects, and in some cases you will hear that it costs," he said.

“Drug testing is not cheap. It's cheaper than it used to be, but for a smaller entrepreneur, if you have to send 20 people for drug tests, it's a significant cost that they may not have planned for, "he said.

" If you are a company working institutionally "Through drug testing, I think you'll probably continue to do that," Zender said. "If you are a company that can not find someone who is willing to come and work for you because you have mandatory drug tests as part of your employment contract, you need to ask yourself some questions that you may not have asked two or three years ago. "

Data from Quest Diagnostics also showed a significant increase in the degree of positivity for test results after an accident, which exceeded the increase in the positivity for tests before employment. Among the general workforce in the United States, pre-employment marijuana positivity increased to 2.4% from 1.9% from 2012 to 2020, while post-accident positivity increased to 6.4% from 2.4%.

Data on the number of construction companies departing from mandatory drug tests are unavailable, but industry sources say it is likely to vary considerably depending on the employer.

"The more established companies still see their drug and alcohol programs as a key factor in their safety and health risk management programs, but I know it's happening out there," Heinlein said.

"What I have gathered from many employers are making pragmatic decisions about what is good for them, not necessarily what follows the trends.… They need to make a business decision that is most meaningful to them, and if they do something, perhaps counterculture, they probably be public about it, says Zender.

For individual organizations, changing drug test policies can give rise to other problems, says Mark Pew, principal of The RxProfessor LLC, based in Norcross, Georgia.

"To some extent, I think that it's a competitive advantage or a disadvantage if you talk about it in public, "Mr. Pew said.

it means that you get those who can not get a job elsewhere? ” he said.

Mr Zender said that continued drug testing could ultimately benefit companies.

"If this labor shortage continues for some meaningful period of time, it will probably help to separate the wheat from the chaff, so that say, and those who continue to maintain discipline will look even more exceptional, "he said.


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