Regulation has had virtually no effect on our drug policy. Our drug policy has remained basically unchanged for about 20 years. From the very beginning, the policy has been as tough to beat as we could legally make it.
To my knowledge, we are the second Ohio roofing contractor to go drug free, and the first to not go bankrupt in the process. From the very beginning, my intent with a drug-free policy was to truly be drug free, not just something I had to do in order to comply with state regulation. In fact, it is possible that some of the current regulation obtained birth due to HRI.
I can’t remember the year, but it’s been quite a while ago (10 plus years) that the Ohio BWC interviewed my General Manager for the purpose of understanding what we do, and how they could teach other companies to do it, because of the dramatic improvement to our safety record.
We have the occasional accident, it's just unavoidable in a practical world. For instance, in recent years we had a man black out while descending a ladder. Had he not landed on another employee, he'd likely have died in the fall. Another man was badly burned when a customer had an equipment failure which sent steam and boiling water out of a vent that the man was walking past. He has had a full recovery, but it was long and painful. You'll also have cuts and scrapes, and I think our 10-year average is around 45,000 - 50,000 man hours between reportable accidents. But I think we are more than five years since we’ve had an “at fault lost time” accident.
Despite the many people that said going drug free would be the death of the company, including some of my own employees, the adoption of a drug-free policy with real teeth has been the single best business decision I believe I’ve ever made. I can’t relate to the problems I hear some people talk about, unless I stretch my memory back 20 years to “the way things used to be.” Yet as much as I desire to catch users and eradicate drugs from company employees, I believe the best part of our policy is the way we handle people that get caught. One critical element of the program is that we pay every penny of rehab if an employee completes a program.
I don’t want to get rid of drug USERS, I want to get rid of drug use. Our employees are our greatest asset, and every one of them is valuable. Improving their life at home is as an important part of our goal as is keeping drugs from influencing the company.
I will always be grateful to the man that helped me develop my program, the first Ohio roofer to go drug free and fail in process, and I welcome the opportunity to help others who want to take this giant leap toward making their company better.
Michael Hicks is owner of Hicks Industrial Roofing. See his full bio here.