Maintaining a Drug-Free Foodservice Workplace: Learn Your Risks & Exposures

substance abuse

Substance abuse in the workplace negatively affects every organization’s bottom-line through lost productivity, workplace accidents/injuries and workers’ compensation (WC) claims, employee absenteeism, low morale, and more. Companies across the nation lose billions of dollars a year because of employees’ alcohol and drug use and related problems, with no sign of slowing down.(1)

In his 2000 memoir, “Kitchen Confidential,” the late Anthony Bourdain described working in the restaurant industry as “insular, chaotic, drenched in drugs and alcohol” and while this is only one man’s opinion, research shows that unfortunately – he may not have been too far off. According to data by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and other studies, restaurant and hotel workers have the highest rates of illicit drug use by industry.(2)

Creating a drug free workplace requires careful planning. It is of the utmost importance to be proactive to ensure that you are building a drug-free environment for your staff.   A cornerstone of such an initiative is often a substance abuse testing program.

Consider these recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) when creating and executing your efforts:

  • Determine the ultimate goal of your program and how it can benefit your organization and your employees.
  • Determine what drugs to test for. Commonly used drugs include alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and opioids.
  • Determine what type of testing you will use. Breath, saliva, urine and blood testing are most commonly used to test for drugs and alcohol.
  • Determine when to test for drugs and alcohol in the workplace. Testing may be done during the pre-employment process, after an accident or injury, after reasonable cause or suspicion, or randomly tested. This includes any pre-employment or periodic random testing.
  • Determine what testing procedures will be put into place:
    • Designate where employees need to go to provide specimens for testing. The site should be a suitable medical facility or testing unit.
    • Laboratories must be familiar with the minimum level at which substances can be detected in the body and the quantity of drugs or alcohol in the system when screening urine specimens. This will enable them to determine whether a sample is positive or negative.
  • Determine how test results will be evaluated and discussed with the employee.

Once you have decided how you will create and implement your program, be sure to draft a detailed policy outlining your drug testing program, along with specific procedures, rules and protocols. You should make sure  all employees have access to this policy so that company expectations and procedures are clear.

In addition to testing, your drug-free workplace policy should meet your state’s regulations and should be specific to your business. Review workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation disqualifications, address prescription medication (including medical marijuana) disclosures under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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Organizations that battle the dangers of workplace substance abuse head on, will only benefit long term with healthier employees, heightened productivity, decreased absenteeism and workers’ compensation claims. An experienced insurance advisor can work with you on developing a plan that helps you meet your goals and reduce your exposure to risk.



Robert Fiorito
Robert Fiorito serves as Vice President with HUB International Northeast, a leading global insurance brokerage, where he specializes in providing insurance services to the restaurant industry. As a 25-year veteran and former restaurateur himself, Bob has worked with a wide array of restaurant and food service businesses, ranging from fast-food chains to upscale, “white tablecloth" dining establishments. Robert can be reached at 212-338-2324 or by email at For more information on HUB, please visit