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Evaluation of a Private Sector Drug-free Workplace

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Project Summary:

The problem of workplace substance abuse continues to receive wide attention. Although the precise magnitude remains uncertain, there is concern that workplace substance abuse in some industries and occupational settings has a major effect on worker productivity, as well as on worker health and safety. Currently, little reliable, scientific information exists about the effects of drug-free workplace programs. In 1996, the Washington state legislature passed the Drug-Free Workplace Discount Act (S.B. 5516). The Act established a statewide initiative aimed at reducing the risk of workplace injury and at improving worker health and safety by encouraging employers to adopt a comprehensive drug-free workplace program. Employers enrolling in the program receive a 5% discount in their workers’ compensation premiums if they establish a drug-free workplace program that meets specified criteria. These criteria include the development of a written drug and alcohol policy, use of drug testing, supervisor training, provision of substance abuse treatment and referral to employee assistance program (EAP) services. To date approximately 4,650 companies in Washington State with a combined workforce of 27,000 employees, have enrolled in the program. The evaluation will employ a quasi-experimental (matched-group) design to perform a series of analyses that compare changes in occupational injury rates and associated medical costs, time-loss (wage replacement) payments, and related measures between companies with Drug-Free Workplace programs and companies without such programs. As part of the evaluation, we will perform a process evaluation to document employers’ experience and effectiveness in implementing the Drug-Free Workplace program. The process evaluation will be based on a mail survey of all Drug-Free Workplace (DFW) companies. Information gathered through the survey will allow us to examine whether firms with more effective program implementation achieve better outcomes, in addition to providing important qualitative information that will aid us in interpreting the results of the quantitative outcome analysis. To evaluate program outcomes, we will compare the incidence of occupational injuries among DFW and comparison firms over a 36-month period (18 months baseline and 18 months follow-up). We will gather data on medical and time-loss costs on each injury for up to 12 months post-injury, and compare DFW and comparison companies on the basis of these costs. We will select two comparison firms for each DFW firm, matching on the basis of risk class, company size, industry and location. Thus, we will analyze injury rates and costs among a sample of 1,350 companies, 450 DFW and 900 comparison firms. Our evaluation will be guided by a series of hypotheses, which will be tested through stratified and multivariate analyses. The findings of the evaluation should help inform policy development and planning within the field of workplace substance abuse prevention, thereby improving prevention and treatment efforts.

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