Employee Benefits... General Opioid Use In The...
Opioid Use In The Workplace: Should I Be Concerned?
Opioid Use In The Workplace: Should I Be Concerned?

My husband recently had shoulder surgery and his physician wrote him a prescription for oxycodone. He did not end up using the pills and they now sit in a bathroom drawer.  How many of you have experienced the same scenario if you recently had a tooth pulled or outpatient surgery.

Unfortunately, we have an epidemic in Wisconsin and prescription painkillers are the source.  This is affecting workers from all types of jobs and professions from blue collar to white collar industries. 

As an employer, can this affect you?  Should you be concerned?

Yes and Yes!

Facts and Figures:
  • 80% of worker’s compensation claims in Wisconsin involve pain medications, including opioids.
  • 4 out of 5 employers have had to deal with opioid prescription addiction and abuse in their workplace
  • $13.4 billion dollars is spent by insurance carriers on narcotic and opioid painkillers prescribed to their worker’s compensation claimants.
  • $26 billion is lost by employers from prescription pain medication abuse, including: loss of productivity, absenteeism, and lost earnings from premature death.
  • 9 times higher overall cost to treat a workplace injury when a narcotic painkiller is prescribed.
Here are four important steps to take to establish your company’s stance on alcohol and drugs in the workplace:

1. Review your company’s drug policy in your employee handbook:
  • Do you currently have a drug policy that outlines expected employee behavior on premise in regards to use of controlled substances or alcohol? 
  • Does it contain a sheet that indicates the employee has read and understands the policy and the date of the review? 
  • Do you have set procedures on drug testing employees?  
  • All of these are essential in defending substance/alcohol abuse in the workplace. 
2. Keep your managers and supervisors in the loop:
  • Managers, supervisors, and lead team workers need to know what your drug-free workplace and drug-testing policies are, including any updates. 
  • They will need to be trained to recognize the potential signs of drug impairment and what to do if they suspect an employee is under the influence. 
3. Educate your employees about the misuse and dangers of prescription painkillers:
  • Discuss your concerns with your employees about them taking prescription narcotic and opioid painkillers and have them ask their medical professional for a non-narcotic alternative.
  • Are your employees aware of what Wisconsin’s law says about driving while using prescription drugs?  Even prescribed medication from your physician?  There is such a law concerning drugged driving.
  • Do your employees know the risks of taking painkillers while performing workplace functions?
  • Do your employees know how to safely store and dispose of prescribed painkillers?  Most police stations have drop off boxes.
  • Educate your employees to never share or take painkillers prescribed to someone else. 
4. Decide on your company's drug testing procedures:
  • What is your plan regarding drug testing either randomly or after work injuries to confirm or rule out substance/alcohol abuse? 
  • This process can be handled by a local hospital or clinic in advance of any medical treatment for work injuries.  Many companies use vendors where urine can be sent for testing for a flat fee. 
  • Consider adding prescription medications to the current drug panel you use for testing employees.  This could include the following:
    • Barbiturates
    • Benzodiazepines
    • Synthetic opiate
    • Methadone
If you have questions regarding this or any other worker’s compensation issue, please call our Claims Department at 608-257-3795 and we will be happy to assist you.

Author: Peg Kramer
Claims Counselor
Hausmann-Johnson Insurance
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