It seems no family, no community, and no business is untouched by the opioid crisis. HHS reports that in 2015 there were more than 70,000 deaths and this crisis cost the U.S. economy $78.5 billion.
How does this crisis impact your business and what can you do about it?
How the opioid crisis impacts small business
The tightening job market has made it challenging for many small businesses to find the workers they need, according to an NFIB survey. One of the reasons why this is so is that there’s a growing segment of workers who can’t participate in the workforce because of opioid use.
And what about employees who use opioids (or go on to use heroin)? Employees who use these drugs risk injury to themselves and others when operating machinery or when driving on company business. (Think about the employee who had a workplace injury and, through workers’ compensation, received treatment that included a prescription for an opioid. Now that worker is back on the job, but is still using the drug.) Even if safety concerns are not paramount, likely such employees aren’t as productive as they could be if they were drug free, and may be making errors that could cost a business substantially.
What small business can do?
Small business owners must become part of the solution to the opioid crisis…because it will make their workplaces safer, it will save them money, or just because it’s the right thing to do. The National Safety Council makes these suggestions:
- Create or re-evaluate your drug-free workplace and drug testing policies. These policies should be written, supervisors should be trained, and employees should be made aware of them (be sure they’re in your employee handbook and that employees sign a statement that they’ve read the handbook).
- Help affected employees. What employee assistance programs can you develop? Consider offering confidential access to help and treatment.
There’s no easy cure for the opioid crisis. Government at all levels is grappling with solutions. Small business owners are also part of the solutions team. In creating any workplace policies, be sure to run them by an employment law attorney.