MCA Chicago Lauds New Illinois Substance Abuse Law

Enacted last month, the Illinois legislature's Public Act 095-0635, also known as the Substance Abuse Prevention on Public Works Projects Act, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2008. The act prohibits employees in the state from using, possessing, attempting to possess, distributing, delivering, or being under the influence of drugs and alcohol while performing their duties on public works projects--measures the Mechanical Contractors Association of Chicago said yesterday will increase safety and save lives.

MCA members install and service heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems, as well as fire sprinklers, plumbing, and process piping in partnership with the pipe fitters of the United Association (UA) Local Union 597. MCA supported the successful passage of the bill, saying that while the construction industry is a leader in promoting safe jobsites, the need to monitor substance abuse in the construction industry is well-documented.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the construction industry has a high rate of past-month substance abuse among full-time workers. For past-month illicit drug use, the rate is 13.7 percent, and for past-month heavy alcohol use, the rate is even higher: 15.9 percent. The Cornell University study, "An Evaluation of Drug Testing in the Workplace: A Study of the Construction Industry," reveals that the average company implementing drug testing can help reduce workplace injuries 51 percent within two years, MCA says, adding that failure to implement a drug and alcohol policy can leave an employer and the owner--in this case, the public body--with significant liability. Enacting substance abuse testing for public works follows the lead of many private sector contractors, labor unions, and owners who already require such measures.

The act states that employers shall have in place written substance abuse prevention and testing programs prior to commencing work on a public works project. It also establishes the minimum criteria that must be met by such programs and mandates removal of employees who test positive for drugs or alcohol from the public works project until that employee completes a rehabilitation program or is cleared by a counselor to return to work. State Representative David Winters (R-Shirland) and State Senators Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) and John Cullerton (D-Chicago) guided the bill through the General Assembly.

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