Bill Hamm believes he found another piece of the puzzle when Berg implemented a new drug policy last February.

Running your company is a puzzle. So many little pieces, so little time. One piece missing, and the puzzle is incomplete — your company is not as successful as it could be.

Bill Hamm believes he found another piece of the puzzle when his Berg Inc. (No. 68) implemented a new drug policy last February.

“I think a drug policy is important. It’s just another part of having a comprehensive quality company,” says Hamm, executive vice president. “I really think the effect is positive, not only economically, but especially from the human suffering side.” The Shreveport, La.-based mechanical contractor with about 450 employees does not have a drug problem, it’s today’s society in general that has the problem, Hamm says.

“We implemented the policy because of the proliferation of drug use in our society, and the impact that it has on our worker’s comp rates and the accidents we had on some of our jobs,” explains Hamm, who is one of the owners. “In today’s workplace, it’s essential you have a policy in place because of the rampant use of drugs and the impact that it has on the safety of your employees.”

Before February, Berg had a drug program on a job-specific basis. When the company needed to meet a customer requirement, it instituted a drug policy for that specific job. Hamm says he saw more benefits implementing a drug program company-wide.

Hamm knew Berg needed help from a third party, so he approached Robert Stutman and Associates, a division of Employee Information Services. In stepped Chris Royer, from the Coral Springs, Fl.-based consulting firm.

“The same start analysis goes with any client we deal with when starting a drug program,” Royer says. “You just can’t have a two-paragraph company policy of a work-free drug place and then handle issues as they arrive. You have to anticipate situations as unlikely as they may seem, and prepare for the eventuality that one day an employee comes into work with a bag of marijuana.”

Royer says there is a three-fold plan in instituting a new drug program:

  • The program needs to be legally sound — it has to meet federal, state and any local municipality laws.
  • RSA Consulting looks at the type of industry the company is in to come up with a program that fits the corporate culture, overall objectives and state law. You don’t implement the same type of drug program for a construction company that you would for a Wall Street firm or a retail store. The employees have different backgrounds and experiences, and the every day work environment is vastly different.
  • Everything needs to be written down and documented. There are no unwritten rules. If there is a rule, it has to be in black and white, so everyone knows it and has been put on notice. The employees know what is expected of them, management knows what it is expected to do. If there is ever going to be a lawsuit, the court has a document that specifically states the policy.

Each program is specifically tailored for the client. RSA Consulting held a six-hour strategic meeting with Berg’s corporate leadership and went through a very large list of issues that are general in concept, but then get tailored for the environment of the client.

Berg had to choose between 26 different types of testing, including pre-employment, probationary, random and post-accident tests. Every company must have two reasons for testing, but most companies choose between five and eight, Royer says.

Berg has found the most benefits from its pre-employment, post-accident and for cause/reasonable suspicion tests. “We’ve had several pre-employment people who’ve been detected taking drugs,” says Hamm. “In that case they aren’t employed, we just send them on down the road.”

Hamm says the company terminated two employees after accidents who were found to have marijuana in their systems. “On two occasions since we implemented the policy, we found marijuana was involved in the accident. Marijuana causes a depth perception problem that lasts for several days even after it is used.

“We had an accident involving a fall that was obviously because the guy had impaired depth perception. Berg’s policy really indicates to our employees that we are not going to put up with the use of drugs and alcohol on our projects. Consequently, we expect to see a reduction in our recordable accidents,” Hamm adds.

Berg also practices random testing for its employees. The company believes random testing reduces casual drug use, or weekend users. And no one is spared in the company — even upper management, including the CEO, has submitted for drug testing.

“Statistically it has been proven that when you implement a program like this there will be a vast reduction in accidents,” explains Hamm. “People who find out you have a program like this aren’t even going to attempt to be employed. The random aspect of the testing deters people who use drugs casually because they know at any time they can be chosen to be tested. They consent to it, of course, when they are employed.”

The policy has been well received by Berg’s employees, according to Hamm. “I think everyone is so keenly aware of the safety hazards and issues this addresses.”

The economic impact can’t be measured. “If you look at it from the standpoint that you aren’t even able to bid projects for many of these customers because of an excessive recordable accident rate, then it has a definite economic impact,” says Hamm. “It’s hard to put a dollar figure on the savings because if you have a higher recordable accident rate than the customer’s maximum, then you simply can’t bid work.”

One of Berg’s customers requires a total recordable accident rate of 4-1/2 OSHA recordables per 200,000 man hours. “I think everyone appreciates that this drug program will keep the accident level down, and ultimately lead to worker safety.”